Peter Dowdall: Let’s plant ideas for the new year 

Peter Dowdall: Let’s plant ideas for the new year 

Here we go again. A new year and so much more gardening to do and many more plants to discover. It’s only a week since we were heading towards Christmas and looking to the end of a year and it’s only a day since yesterday, New Year’s Eve but turning that page on the calendar has such an impact on the mindset, for now, we are immediately looking forward to the spring and all the promise that lies ahead in the garden.

We’re not looking at the garden going to bed for the winter, rather we’re looking to see signs of spring about, has anything woken up and dared to poke their noses up above the soil yet.

January and February can be very unforgiving and harsh months in the garden but we gardeners are a positive and optimistic bunch, we have to be, always thinking a season ahead.

First things first, keep an eye on the wildlife in your garden, make sure you have some nesting boxes up for wild birds, clean out any dirty bird food from feeders and make sure any water available to them isn’t too dirty or frozen.

Don’t be in a rush to clear up fallen leaves or log piles if a hedgehog or similar may be hibernating, cosily beneath.

Making these creatures safe and welcome in the garden will repay us not just in 2022 but for years to come as they will devour garden pests and bugs.

For those amongst us, who are uber-organised, seeds of hardy annuals can be sown indoors now and kept inside until planting out time. Starting them this early means that you will have stronger plants, earlier in the summer.

Perennials too can be started off as bare roots, tubers and corms in pots indoors during January and February. It’s a great way to grow dahlias, peonies, irises and other perennial favourites for not only will you have larger plants sooner, but sourcing them as bare roots is much less expensive than buying them as potted plants later in the season.

This is a great month for a spot of “armchair gardening”, a chance to put the feet up and browse from the comfort of the nice, warm home, through seed catalogues and websites, imagining Instagram-perfect displays of colour in the year ahead.

I still remember, the excitement I felt as a child, leafing through these catalogues in January before “back to school” and the real world kicked in. I would mark the pages and x the varieties that I would imagine myself growing. No matter how strict I was with myself, I always marked enough seed packets to cover most of Munster with summer colour. 

If I were to purchase all that I had marked, my 11-year-old self would have had to give up school and sow seeds 24 hours a day. Thankfully there was no such thing as online ordering and paying virtually back then. Then I discovered the RHS Seed Exchange, free seeds, things couldn’t get any better!

It is still a challenge for me each year, not to order too much, my enthusiasm now, somewhat tempered by 49 years of experience.

When you do venture outside, though it may seem a tough tim

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