January and February are cold months in Europe and North America, but there is still plenty you can do in your garden to prepare for the coming spring and summer.
Build New Garden Paths
Laying garden paths is something that anyone can do. There is no expertise involved, just a bit of muscle-power. There is not even any heavy lifting involved if you build gravel paths.
Buy a few rolls of black damp-proof membrane. Cut five foot lengths off the roll. Open these cut pieces
out and you will have a piece of damp-proof membrane five feet by sixteen feet. This heavy grade polythene makes a perfect underlay for your garden paths. Weeds will never grow up through it, nor root down through it. Forget weed-resistant fabric. Weeds will root down through it and then be almost impossible to remove.
Use stones or old bricks to edge your path. These will keep the gravel from falling out to the sides and make them look very tidy. You can set the stones or bricks in a few shovels full of concrete if you are a perfectionist, or just let them stand there, wedged together.
You should lay about one inch of builders' sand and then four inches of gravel on top of the black polythene. The sand prevents the gravel puncturing the polythene, which would allow weeds to come through. Sand and gravel can all be moved with a wheelbarrow, at your own pace, spreading the work out over a few weeks if necessary. The heaviest weight you will ever lift is a spade full of sand or gravel. There is much less risk of damaging your back than there is laying paving stones.
This is a very economical way to build a garden path, because any half-fit adult can do it. There is no need to pay a professional as there would be if you were using paving blocks.
Build a New Garden Shed
You know you need one. You might as well buy it now and get more use out of it as struggle trying to fit an ever-growing collection of DIY and gardening tools, chemicals and paint into your current shed.
Consider a steel shed. Industrial buildings are made from coated steel, so it is perfectly suited for your domestic garden shed. You will not need to treat it with wood preservative every two years and you large steel garden buildings are much cheaper the equivalent timber ones.
Buy as large a garden building as you can accommodate and afford. You will still manage to fill it in a few years, even if you keep your current shed. Rectangular buildings are best because they waste less floor space than a square building does.
Whether you buy a steel, vinyl or timber shed make sure you put down good foundations to help your new garden building last longer.
Make provision for plumbing and electrical connections before your building arrives on site. It is very useful to have a shower and toilet for use while you are doing dirty jobs in the garden; a new, larger garden building means you have a chance to install these facilities.
Concrete cannot be laid in frosty weather, but you can dig channels for your services. It is a good idea to use your supplier's installation and assembly service. It will cost a bit more, but the installers will make a better job of it than most amateurs would.
Build a Gazebo
Buy gazebo self-build kits. All the timber is supplied pre-cut to length. There will be instructions you can follow. All you will need are a spirit level, screwdrivers, wrenches and a spade to dig holes for the uprights to sit in.
Assemble a New Greenhouse
Almost every gardener could use a greenhouse. If you grow your own vegetables or flowers from seed then you will get plants big enough to plant out six weeks earlier, even with an unheated greenhouse.
You can choose from plastic or glass panels in a multitude of different designs and sizes. The same rules apply as for a shed. Your greenhouse can never be big enough.
Locate it on a concrete base where there is no shade to stop sunlight reaching it in the summer. Self-assembly of flat-pack greenhouses is not difficult if you can follow written instructions.
Install a Deck
Unless you have built a deck before it is better to find a local garden landscaper who will design, supply and build your deck for you. Use pressure treated timber to prevent it cracking and splitting
Install a Patio
Laying paving stones can be a backbreaking job, so get an expert in unless you know what you are doing. Think about installing a barbecue grill and sinking a fire pit below ground level. You can cover the fire pit with a paving stone when it is not in use.
Stay off the grass as much as possible. Rake up any late leaves that you never got around to doing in the autumn.
Keep your supplies of wood for burning topped up by going out with your saw on any dry days.
If you did not trim back any large hedges or trees there is still time to do it while you can see the shape of the tree and decide where to make your cuts.
You will need to leave any freshly sawn branches to dry out before they will burn, just pile them up out of the way somewhere until next autumn. Small branches can go through your garden shredder at any time. Pile up the chippings in a corner of your yard until the spring, they may provide a home for hibernating hedgehogs.
Keep on top of the weeding by running around with the garden hoe once every two weeks.
Turn your compost over to aerate it and speed up decomposition. It is best to turn it into an adjacent empty compost bin. Just forking it over will not incorporate enough oxygen and is a waste of time.