As the new year rolls into town with a wave of warm weather it’s made me think about the coming year in the garden – about what I’d like to sow and what I’d like to cook with what I’ve grown, foraged and found.
January can often be a bleak month in the garden but there’s plenty to do and to cook with. Today I’ve been buoyed by the arrival of the first hellebore flowers and the sight of daffodils starting to peek through the soil.
Here’s my go to guide for the month ahead:
January is a great month for sorting out what you want to grow and where. I always use the time around New Year to plan the rotation of my crops and spend quite a bit of time sifting through my seeds to see what I need to order for the season to come. Of course, I’m helped by the number of seed catalogues landing on the doormat at this time of year. I always pick a couple of new varieties of veg to grow each year so the catalogues offer a good opportunity for proper planning.
If you want to head into the garden there’s plenty of tidying and fixing to do. I’ve been weeding the vegetable beds and removing spent vegetable plants. Along the way I’ve been fixing broken arches and adding manure where needed. I’ve been raking up leaves and have placed these in a circular cage made from chicken wire so they can decompose to create gardener’s gold – leaf mould! Last year’s leaf mould can be spread over beds for mulching now.
Currants and gooseberries can be pruned by removing some old wood to create a goblet shape. Make sure to leave plenty of new, healthy growth.
Now is also the time to prune Wisteria – it’s a two-stage affair. Right now you can shorten the sideshoots to two or three buds and then in summer the long whispy shoots can be cut back to around 30cm.
If you have a grape vine, now is the time to cut this back too (how depends on its age and site) and while you’re in the garden with your secateurs cut down autumn-fruiting raspberries to ground level.
Here, many of the rhubarb crowns have started sprouting so you can cover established crowns with upturned pots to force the fruit for early harvests. You should only force rhubarb crowns in alternate years.
I’ve dug up some strawberry plants that have grown from runners and will place these in the greenhouse to over-winter them.
In the flower beds, it’s a good time for removing old growth from perennials and to clear any decaying leaves from the flourishing hellebores. For winter scent in the garden I always enjoying daphnes, they have delicate, waxy flowers and an incredibly sweet fragrance.
I’ve started to sow sweet peas and will place these in the greenhouse. Sowing them now will ensure you have flowers earlier, giving you a longer cutting season.
Many annual flower seeds can be sown – cobaeas (a great annual climber which I use on frames which staddle the raised beds), cerinthe (a structurally wonderful Mediterranean plant) and antirrhinums (snapdragons which look striking at the front of a border).
In the veg garden you can begin to sow Swiss chard in the greenhouse and leeks, onions and spinach under cover.
Some varieties of broad beans can also be planted outside as can winter-hardy lettuce seeds.
Now is also the time to start sowing hardy herbs under cover – including parsley and coriander.
Harvest & cook:
At the moment I have Swiss chard, perpetual spinach, winter lettuce, kale and beetroot ready for picking and herbs aplenty – sage, rosemary, bay, winter savoury and chervil. Ideal for winter warmers, soups and stews.
There are plenty more foods than can be harvested now – if you grow them! If you don’t you might like to put them on your list of veg to grow this year.
They include brussels sprouts, cabbages, cauliflower, parsnips, leeks and celery.
For me, January is synonymous with a particularly tremendous fruit – the Seville Orange. The bitter, fragrant fruit is ideal for marmalade making. The season is, however, extremely short – running from mid December to early February. I always stock up on a few kilos for marmalade making, but they’re also spectacular for use in tarts, ice creams and curds too. They can be frozen whole to be enjoyed throughout the year. (This is how I make my marmalade).
Happy gardening and New Year’s wishes from me to you…