What to do in the garden this week

Skimmia Japonica Berries. PA Photo/thinkstockphotos

Skimmia Japonica Berries. PA Photo/thinkstockphotos - Credit: Archant

Which essential seasonal gardening chores should you do this week and which plants will benefit from a little extra tlc right now?

Potatoes. PA Photo/thinkstockphotos

Potatoes. PA Photo/thinkstockphotos - Credit: Archant

1. Skimmia

These hardy shrubs make a statement in the winter garden with their clusters of vibrant red berries and evergreen leaves to provide year-round interest. Red tinted flower buds of Skimmia japonica on a frosty winter’s morning look stunning in the border or in pots, which develop into white or pink-tinted spring flowers. Red fruits are borne on female plants so you’ll need to plant a male and a female together, or a hermaphrodite such as reevesiana if you want berries. Other good varieties include ‘Veitchii’, which is female, and the male type ‘Fragrans’. S, japonica prefer full shade as their leaves turn yellow in sunshine.

2. Potatoes in pots

If spuds have taken over your veg patch, or they’ve suffered from blight and perished over the years, it may be time to grow them in pots if you want a delicious crop which tastes completely different from the shop-bought varieties. And pots can be moved to a warm, sheltered, sunny spot to aid the growth rate of the potatoes. Any pot with drainage holes will do, but the bigger the better as they will need plenty of moisture, which will be retained more successfully in a larger pot. Plant in multi-purpose compost - first and second early varieties work best as they can be harvested earlier so the pot’s freed up for alternative crops. You’ll need three tubers in a 40L container with some compost on top, plenty of watering during the season and when the green shoots come up, cover them with another layer of compost, feed and water accordingly and continue to do that until you reach the top of the pot. When they’re ready to harvest, dig them up as you need them. Good varieties include ‘Charlotte’ and ‘Epicure’.

FACTBOX What to do in the garden this week

:: Tidy up shrubs by cutting back broken stems and branches.

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:: Sow sweet peas in a cool, light room or a frost-free, sheltered cold frame.

:: Order summer-flowering bulbs from catalogues.

:: Prune wisteria, shortening the sideshoots from the main framework to encourage flower buds.

:: Keep off icy grass or you’ll damage it.

:: Spread out well-rotted manure or garden compost on to your borders.

:: Keep bird baths and feeders topped up.

:: Keep on top of winter-germinating weeds by hoeing any weed seedlings you see.

:: Clear damp, soggy leaves from the crowns of plants.

:: Force rhubarb.

:: Continue to buy seed potatoes for chitting before planting in March.

:: Bend leaves over cauliflowers to protect the developing curds.