January in the Garden January 26, 2024

In our new monthly blog, our therapeutic horticulture lead and head gardener Matt shares what has been happening in the garden this month.  

Coppicing and enhancing our wildlife areas 

Despite the cold weather, there has been plenty going on in the gardens at the start of the year. An ongoing process of coppicing our hazel has provided our volunteers with enough material to make woven fences, the construction of which has been a fun activity for all involved. One of the fences has been built around our nettle bed, an area which will be protected and allowed to grow wild to provide habitat for a number of endangered moths and butterflies as they mature. 

Pruning has featured quite heavily as you might expect at this time of year, and we are looking forward to carrying out a crown lift in our woodlands to allow in more light, particularly around the beehives and pond area. It is hoped that this will enable us to encourage a broader range of plant and wildlife species, and hopefully reestablish the site as an area for dragonflies and damselflies to breed. You can find more info on dragnoflies and how they breed here.

Trees, leaves and no dig gardening 

With so many trees on site, we have spent a lot of time clearing the paths of leaves – so many leaves in fact, that the volunteers have been kept busy refurbishing and making new storage bays for us to make leaf mould. Last year’s leaf mould has been sieved and spread onto our vegetable beds as a mulch as part of our move to no dig beds and we are hopeful that we will see the benefits as the year progresses.  

The volunteers have been mindful of the importance of leaves however, so they haven’t all been swept away by any means. Wherever possible, they have been moved onto the beds or simply to one side of the paths, creating piles where insects can hide and thrive over the winter months. 

We were too late sowing green manure last year, as the weather never quite seemed to be in our favour, so some of the beds are a little bare at the moment. We’re hopeful that as the weather warms, the volunteers will be able to sow some useful ground cover to keep the soil healthy before we get into the main growing season.  

Sowing seeds for the spring and summer 

Speaking of the new growing season, although our winter vegetables are still in the ground, we’re already sowing sweet peas and chillis, getting a head start on producing lots of plants ready to go into the gardens and onto our sales area. Lots of hardwood cuttings have been taken – particularly of useful solid seasonal performers like jasmine, bay and lavender – and we have been working on producing lots of plants for hedging like hawthorn and beech – so fingers crossed these will mature happily and contribute to the development of the gardens as a haven for wildlife. 

A key project which we will be embarking on soon is to introduce more native pollinator friendly plants to places including the orchard and sunnier parts of the woodland, again in the hope of supporting and attracting more wildlife species to the gardens.

Watch this space for news on how things develop! 

Matt Young
Therapeutic Horticulture Lead