January the 1st, to all intents and purposes, is the beginning of my horticultural year as well as the first day of the calendar year. As I’ve mentioned before, last year there were a few false starts and a few downright failures, I won’t promise that 2017 will be any different but I’ve made a commitment to myself that I will make every effort to make it so. The bold intention, and with some careful planning may come to fruition (excuse the pun), is that we will buy as little as possible or no vegetables after the hungry gap this year. We may find ourselves living off little else but cauliflower for one month and spinach another, but this will all be part of the experiment. If I manage to buy not one vegetable in a plastic bag, because the supermarket requires it to have a barcode, then I’ll consider it a total success.

I already have a good stock of broad beans growing and the first round of onions are coming along nicely, they’ll be bolstered with a second lot grown from seed which I’ll start off this month or next, under cover. Broad beans are a vegetable that I have told myself, ever since I was a child, that I dislike. The first few times that I grew them I never really put in any effort and would grow just a few plants, these usually got ravaged by black fly and would be left to fester before finally being consigned to the compost heap. The main reason for growing them was that I would always have a little space at this time of the year, and they were one of the few things that I could plant. Last year however I grew a few more and we actually had a good harvest, it was then that I found out what a fool I’d been and how delicious they really are. To rectify this error of judgement, I’ve planted many more this year as they take up relatively little space for the crop that you get. If you haven’t any in the ground now, don’t worry as although they over winter well, you can plant again from February, they will catch up with the earlier grown plants but may not be as hardy to resist the inevitable aphids. The only other plants that I’ll be starting off in January are some aubergine and maybe some early cabbage and cauliflower, this year I can’t have 10 all to come in the same week. I started some aubergine last year but as with most seedlings, they were eaten by slugs and snails before they had a chance to come to anything.

I’ll be using a ‘no dig’ system for the new raised beds, the idea being that as the soil is never compacted, it will need little more than a light raking, leaving the worms and other organisms to keep it in good condition. Apart from being a much more environmentally considerate way of tending a plot, it’s less work.  Already it’s apparent to me how much easier it is to maintain them, along with better drainage, these should prove to be well worth the effort. It’s not necessary to have raised beds either for maintaining your plot in this way, the simple rule is just to make sure that the soil is never compacted. Just mulch the area in a thick layer of organic matter or even layer it with cardboard and let the organisms that inhabit the top layers of the soil do their work undisturbed. Weeds are also easier to maintain this way as seeds that are lower in the soil never get brought to the surface, this means that once the top ones have germinated you only have to contend with a bit of light hoeing to keep it under control. It’s still best to remove perennial weeds when you can, but even these can get suppressed when you layer on the muck and cover with a light proof membrane.

I’ve made a plan for the coming months, but if you’ve not, start looking at seeds that you want to grow this year. If you do that when the weather in inclement then you can spend the more pleasant days doing some of these jobs.

  • Clean protective environments like greenhouses ready for spring
  • Inspect tubers from dahlias and cannas that are stored, for rot or drying out
  • Prune apple or pear trees
  • Start forcing rhubarb
  • Cut back any perennials that were left for winter interest
  • As it’s mild here, if the weather isn’t too cold you can start to divide larger clumps of herbaceous perennials for more plants this year
  • Repair lawn edges that are looking a little tired and aerate if there are signs of waterlogging
  • If the soil is not frozen then it’s a good time to plant bare root shrubs and trees, also to move established deciduous ones as they are dormant now

2 thoughts on “January

  1. busybee

    I think the trick with broad beans is to pick them while still quite small and tender. If you leave them until they are bigger, then they need skinning after cooking, which is definitely worth while, but a labour of love. Will you be able to freeze your garden produce to help you bridge the inevitable gaps in fresh goodies?

  2. Tim Barton

    Thanks busybee, I think that my hatred of them came from being given enormous ones and having to chew my way through them. We bought a new freezer this year for the very purpose so hopefully it'll be filled soon.

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