No Time for January Blues

Updated: Jan 19


With the solstice behind us I turn my mind to the gardening year ahead. The darkening December days sometimes make me feel a little gloomy. But with the New Year, the hours of sunlight are slowly increasing and my enthusiasm grows. I take stock of the past year and start planning for Spring.


Wandering the Garden


This week has seen crisp and frosty mornings. The bird bath has frozen over and the grass crunches as I walk over it. I venture out into the cold each day and wander through the garden, making mental notes as I go. I think about what currently works, about what changes I want to make and about what new plants I can bring into my garden.


These daily wanders not only give me time to reflect and plan, but also allow me to observe the plants and the soil. I see where the sparrows have been taking their dust baths, notice what areas I need to make unappealing to local cats and, at this time of year, see the first signs of crocus, daffodils, tulips, woodland anemones and even alliums pushing through the soil. There is always something new to see and these brief wanders in the biting cold are a moment of calm.


Making Plans


Back inside in the warmth I pull out my boxes of seeds and make lists of what vegetables and flowers I plan to grow this year. I check through my seed packets and make a note of those that need topping up. This year that includes Padron peppers and Thai basil as well as long red Florence onions – a fabulous variety of salad onion which can be multi-sown. I’m also stocking up on beetroot, tomato, cucumber, chicory and winter squash seeds.

My garden focus this year will be to grow vegetables that I know work well on my small patch of soil and that produce high yields. I’ve tried some seeds time and again with not much success. Florence fennel always bolts, Chinese greens get eaten by slugs and snails, cabbages are attacked by cabbage white fly and caterpillars and take up too much space to be worth the effort. If I had more time to dedicate to growing I’m sure I could grow these crops successfully (there are barriers that can be put in place for all these pests) but my growing time needs to fit around a busy work week and so I’ll focus on vegetables that I know work well.


January Gardening Tasks:

  1. Give your shed, greenhouse or growing space a spring clean. Sort and stack pots and seeds trays ready for the year ahead.

  2. Sort through your seed packets and plan your vegetable garden (and any other seed sowing you may need to do) for the year ahead. Make a list of what you want to grow and order or source (seed swaps?) seeds now so that they are ready to be planted when you need them. My go to seed suppliers are Real Seeds, Seaspring Seeds, Tamar Organics and Chiltern Seeds. For plugs and small plants I use Victoriana Nurseries.

  3. Prune apple and pear trees. If you have a fireplace or log burner keep the long lengths to use as kindling. If you don't have a fireplace or log burner think about mulching to re-use on your garden beds or stack up piles of twigs into habitat piles behind shrubs or along your garden fence line.

  4. Look after your garden wildlife. Put seed and scraps out for birds (old rice, bread crumbs, bacon rind) and think about putting a bird box in your garden for the nesting season ahead.

  5. Take stock of your current garden layout and, if the weather is mild, move any shrubs or herbaceous plants that you think may benefit from a new location (a garden constantly evolves and grows). Don't undertake this task if the ground is frozen.

  6. If you are planning on adding any new trees, shrubs or hedging to your garden – now is the best time for planting while plants are in their dormant state.

  7. Prune hedges to keep them to the shape and size you want (always check for birds first).

  8. Take hardwood cuttings of deciduous shrubs and climbers. For details on how have a look at this RHS guide.

  9. If you have a pond or a birdbath keep an eye on it to ensure the top doesn't freeze over. Top up as needed and refresh the water in your birdbath regularly.

  10. Keep an eye on outdoor container plants to ensure that the compost remains moist. Protect plants from frosts where necessary.


 

Unsure what to do with your own garden? Get in touch with Wild Edge Garden Design for help and advice.

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