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Winter salad leaves to sow this week and a checklist of gardening chores

PUBLISHED: 17:30 07 January 2015

Mahonia. PA Photo/thinkstockphotos

Mahonia. PA Photo/thinkstockphotos

Archant

The best plants for January to bring colour to winter gardens and fresh produce to the kitchen.

What to do in the garden this week

:: Wash old pots and seed trays so they are ready for seed sowing.

:: Check greenhouse plants for grey mould, or botrytis, a fuzzy, grey growth which can quickly spread. Remove all affected material and destroy it and try to boost air circulation by opening greenhouse vents on dry days

:: Start to plant lily bulbs in pots for summer colour and scent

:: Take root cuttings of shrubs and perennials and keep them in a cold frame

:: Give roses a feed of fertiliser, scattered around their base

:: Nip out the tips of autumn-sown sweet peas in the greenhouse once they have five leaves

:: Prune summer-flowering clematis to a bud low down on each stem

:: Order seed potatoes and onion sets

:: Use a weeding blade to extract weeds from the cracks in paths and paving

:: Sharpen your tools with a sharpening stone before winter pruning begins

Kitchen garden

Salad can be really expensive at this time of year, yet you can easily sow seeds of your favourite salad leaves into pots or trays of compost in the greenhouse, conservatory or even on a sunny windowsill.

If you sow them in batches every couple of weeks and then harvest them when they are young, you should have a continuous supply until the weather becomes fine enough to sow them outside unprotected.

Easy-to-grow leaves include rocket, land cress, mizuna, lettuce and spinach.

Best of the bunch - Mahonia

This stalwart shrub with deep glossy evergreen, holly-like leaves and spikes of brilliant yellow flowers brings not only colour to the border but also a delicious fragrance.

The flowers are followed by bunches of round, deep purple berries. Mahonias thrive in dappled shade, although they will tolerate sun if you keep the soil moist.

Hide its woody stem with spring flowering bulbs and small shade-loving perennials.

Good varieties include Mahonia x media ‘Winter Sun’ and ‘Charity’, which are also nectar-rich and a magnet for pollinating insects.

Prune in spring after flowering, reducing overlong, leggy stems to a sideshoot or a whorl of foliage and apply a generous 5-7cm (2-3in) mulch of well-rotted garden compost or manure around the base of the plant.

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