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

Mahonia. PA Photo/thinkstockphotos

Mahonia. PA Photo/thinkstockphotos - Credit: Archant

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

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.

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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.