January is about the only time of the year as a vegetable grower that you can try and get things in order for the season ahead. All of those jobs you didn’t have time to do during the summer, or the energy to do in the autumn can be done now to make the growing season flow much better.
Crop planning is probably the most important tool for us in terms of making sure that we are prepared for the year ahead. Everything is written down from seed sowing dates, seed quantities required and the plan of the garden that shows us where everything will be planted. This means that everything is in place before the season starts and we can refer back to the plans daily. We have a calendar of seed sowing dates so that we don’t have to think about it in the height of summer when there is so much to do. So, in essence it is great to get ahead on all of the planning in the winter whilst the garden is resting.
Although the weather changes from year to year, we don’t tend to change the sowing dates too much, but rely on previous experience that tells us that is usually best to keep with the sowing dates that we have been using for the past 13 seasons. There may need to be slight adjustments—usually for crops sown early or late in the season. For example sowing turnips, winter radish and chinese cabbage all happens in July and August, and if they haven’t had enough time to reach full size we may adjust the sowing to a week or so earlier.
The second way of getting everything in order whilst you have a little more time is to make sure all of your tools are in the right place and ready to use—everything is sharpened that needs to be, everything has a handle that needs one and everything is put away in an orderly fashion. This sets you up for the year ahead, and you can gather together all of the rogue tools that have found their way into the corners of the garden and hang them up where they rightfully belong. It’s best to put the most commonly used tools in the most accessible place, whilst less frequently used ones can go towards the back of the shed.
It can be really energising to get out into the garden in January—the days are beginning to get longer, and there isn’t much better than a cold, crisp January day (the cold, soggy ones are less pleasant). Make the most of any frosts by getting some of the heavier jobs done that might just make a mess when the ground isn’t frozen, such as mulching beds, putting down woodchip on paths—things that will warm you up.
So, don’t look out of the window thinking “it looks a bit cold out there, I think I’ll stay inside”, get your coat on and spend a little time in the garden on the sunnier days—even just taking a cup of tea out and watching the birds, and maybe sort out some of your tools and start getting ready for the season ahead.
WHAT TO SOW THIS MONTH: It is still too early to sow most veg, but we will be sowing a few sugarsnap peas, lettuce, spring onions and agretti on a heated propagation bench for early tunnel production. But, there is no rush for sowing anything until the end of February/early March.
WHAT TO PLANT THIS MONTH:
Nothing to plant this month (unless you still haven’t planted garlic, in which case it’s not too late!)
OTHER IMPORTANT TASKS THIS MONTH: Keep working through your winter job list of getting everything sorted for the season ahead. Soon enough it will be time to start sowing in earnest, so the more prepared for this the better. Do your seed ordering now if you haven’t already—and try to use some of the great smaller seed companies growing seed in the UK such as Real Seeds, Vital Seeds and the Seed Cooperative. Make sure you have gone through all of your seed packets, and throw out any that don’t last more than a year. We find that parsnip seed is no good after a year, and parsley, carrots, spring onions and leek seed doesn’t last particularly long so we tend to buy seed each year for these.