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Your gardening calendar: Top tasks for January!

Our monthly calendar guides focus on what we do: Wildflowers, edible crops and wildlife. Here, we'll take you step-by-step through the most important sowing, growing and nature-friendly tasks for January.

Sowing and growing wildflowers

Prepare your ground for spring seed-sowing

January is a good time to prepare your ground for spring wildflower sowing (just make sure the ground isn't frozen solid!). It might seem early, but if you wait until spring, you're likely to be deluged with other urgent sowing and growing tasks.

Choose an even location that gets plenty of sun. Clear any weeds, then dig over the soil thoroughly, aerating it and breaking up any large clumps. Remove any big stones that come to the surface, and rake the soil flat.

Sowing and growing fruit, vegetables and herbs

Gather seaweed for your planting beds

Seaweed is an excellent natural fertiliser. If you're lucky enough to live near the coast, January is the perfect month to gather some for your fruit and vegetable patch.

Give the seaweed a good rinse with a hose, to remove excess salt. Then you can either dig it into empty beds - to gradually break down over time - or lay it on the top of soil around perennial plants like fruit bushes.

Seaweed on the surface will both add nutrients to the soil, and act as an effective weed suppressant as winter turns to spring.

This RHS guide outlines the many horticultural benefits of seaweed.

Start chitting your early potatoes

You can start chitting 'first early' potato varieties in late January, ready for planting out during March. 'Chitting' essentially means getting the potatoes to sprout.

Stand your seed potatoes on their ends (an egg box is good for this) and put them in a bright, frost-free location.

If you haven't ordered your seed potatoes yet, now's the time to do it. Folk in Scotland should check out the Potato House - they're just down the road from us (in Dundee) and sell almost 90 varieties of seed potato!

Finally, you can still plant bare root fruit bushes and prune your apple and pear trees during January.

Top tips to help wildlife

Take part in the Big Garden Birdwatch

The RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch takes place every year. It's the world's biggest garden wildlife survey, and provides conservation experts with important information on how garden birds are faring in the UK.

It's also important you continue to provide fresh water for your garden birds - and keep giving them high-energy food, to get them through the coldest part of winter.

Just remember to clean your bird feeders regularly. This is more important than ever just now, as sadly avian influenza has been found in several areas of Scotland, and can be spread from bird to bird via unclean feeders.

This guide to good hygiene practice, published by the British Trust for Ornithology, will help you keep your garden birds safe.

Build a bee hotel

We tend to think of bees living together, in colonies. Honeybees and bumblebees do co-habit in this way; but there are also many types of bee that live alone. These are known as 'solitary bees'. There are almost 250 different species of solitary bee in the UK!

January is the perfect time to help them, by building a bee hotel for them to nest in when spring comes. Your bee hotel can be as simple as a wooden box filled with hollow plant stems. Female bees will crawl into these stems, lay their eggs there, and then plug the entrance hole with mud, leaves and other organic matter.

This Wildlife Trusts guide shows you exactly how to make a bee hotel.

And here are some really beautiful, bigger examples too!

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