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What to do in the Garden - Third of January

What a difference a week makes!  When I was telling you last week what to do in the garden I said that whilst we were in the middle of snow and ice, next week could be 10 degrees and sunny!  I was not far off with temperatures up to 8 or 9 degrees forecast for today and sunshine!



You never stop learning in gardening ( the oldest person I have ever taught was a 92 yr old who came to my evening classes) and of course in gardening there is always more than one way to do things! The text book way to do things and the “Well I just stuck it in and it grew” method. 


All my practical learning has been in some of the best gardens in the UK.  I have worked in Inverewe, Wisley, Hampton Court, Kew and Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. When you work in a large garden there is always something being planted, dug up, in flower or being pruned and this is how you learn all about new plants, how to grow them and what their likes and dislikes are.  But when you have a tiny, mature suburban garden your scope of learning about new plants is severely limited. So my New Years resolution is to at least take out one large established plant and replant with something I don’t know too well and this will give me the knowledge of another plant. Who knows, I might even take two plants out! 


I have a good friend who has stated that she will only plant new plants that have been given the RHS Award of Merit! Maybe that’s taking it a bit too far? What do you think? Please leave your thoughts on my blog.




> Sender: Georgina from Brentwood


> Message:

> What can be done about foxes that continue to dig up plants. Just

> moved

> into our new home and brought plants from our previous property but in one

> section of the garden a very large fox keeps on digging up all the plants

> and dragging them to another part of the garden...... is there anything

> that can be done as it is starting to annoy me. Thanks.


It could be that Georgina has replanted her plants and added bonemeal to the soil and the foxes dig up the plants to get at the nice smelly bonemeal or the transplanted shrubs have the scent of other foxes on them.

I used to recommend a chemical called Renardene (the Latin name of the Fox being Renard) but this was taken off the market a few years ago and even if you have some left in your shed you must not use it. Now we can buy other scent marking chemicals but nothing is as good as the old chemical!

Foxes are creatures of  habit and often follow the same way every night wearing a path in the lawn or flower bed. So if you can “disturb” them they might decide to go elsewhere!

Lets deal with the legal aspects first. The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 makes it a criminal offence to use devices that may harm wild animals. You cannot, therefore, use things such as poison, gas, smoke or nets to control the foxes. Foxes are also covered by the Wild Mammals (Protection) Act 1996, which makes it a criminal offence to deliberately “mutilate, kick, beat, nail or otherwise impale, stab, burn, stone, crush, drown, drag or asphyxiate” them. Needless to say, you are not allowed to use a gun in a built-up area. You can also rule out what may seem the most humane thing: it is almost certainly an offence under the Abandonment of Animals Act 1960 to capture a fox in a city and then release it in the countryside.

Steering your way through this legal minefield can be difficult. However, you are allowed to block the ends of the hole where the foxes live (their “earth”), provided no animal is in there at the time. You can also use non-harmful means, such as animal repellents and even small electric fences and sonic devices. These are available at many garden centres and they are legal, but whether they will work is an entirely different matter.

Another method is to borrow a dog who will mark its territory which foxes will not like. Or how about using human urine? I’m not suggesting you go out and wee around the garden as this could get you into trouble. No, wee into a watering can and spinkle liberally around the garden!

My good friends John and Gill have a large urban garden and had foxes and cubs under their shed and the first reaction from Gill was of wonderment at the cute cubs but while the adults could jump over the 6 foot high fence the cubs were left to play in the herbaceous borders! Playing consisted of rolling in the plants and digging a few up!  

As always what we do in the garden is dictated by the weather and its after effects! The heavy rain we had yesterday in the SE of England will make outdoor work on the soil difficult but by the end of the week it may have dried out a little, enough for you to get on the soil.

Flower Garden


  • Dig up congested clumps of winter aconites and transplant to new sites
  • Improve the soil  by spreading compost or manure over beds and forking in
  • Move plants growing in the wrong place
  • Dig deeply areas where you'll be planting new roses, shrubs or perennials
  • Spread a thick mulch of bark over the crown of tender plants, such as fuchsias, dahlias and cannas
  • Prune summer-flowering clematis, cutting stems back to emerging buds close to soil level


Fruit and Vegetable Garden



  • Prune out the oldest stems from blackcurrants to encourage new shoots
  • Check crops that are in store and discard any showing signs of rot
  • Fork compost into the soil and clear old crops from the veg plot
  • Cover fruit trees and bushes with netting to prevent hungry bullfinches eating blossom buds
  • Sow the following crops under cloches during January and early February: broad beans, hardy peas, spinach, carrots and onions


Greenhouse Gardening


  • Wash glazing inside and out to let in as much light as possible
  • Bring potted camellias into unheated porches or conservatories to enjoy early displays
  • Buy chrysanthemum cuttings or take cuttings from your own plants
  • Sow seed of hardy annuals, such as calendula, for some early flowers
  • Tidy up the greenhouse, getting rid of any old compost or rubbish that could hide unwanted visitors



Around the Garden


  • Keep bird feeders topped up with seed to attract bluetits and sparrows
  • Wash out flowerpots and seed trays
  • Move patio pots to sheltered sites during cold periods or back again after cold periods!
  • Spread a mulch of compost over borders and around trees, shrubs and roses
  • Clean algae and moss from paths and steps
  • Sprinkle a top dressing of gritty compost over lawns


Happy gardening


Till next week.





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