Where on Earth did 2018 go? I blinked, I sowed some seeds, I picked some home-grown veg and it was gone! Faster than you can say ‘propagating perennials’ it was the end of the year and 2019 had begun. So, Happy New Year to you all and I wish you all success in this year’s gardening.
I assume you are reading this because you are wanting to grow more in your garden. It may be fruit or vegetables, or perhaps you want to grow your own flowers.
2019 will most certainly see more and more people stepping away from plastic wrapped supermarket food and try to source more local waste-free produce, or even start to grow their own at home. If this is something you would like to do, then here are a few jobs you can start on this January, to prepare you for the year ahead.
Plan Your Garden
Now is a great time to plan your garden for the year ahead. Measure your garden and draw on graph paper a ground map of your garden, to scale. I like to trace this and make a few copies, or photocopy some- then you can create a few plans and use these to come up with a great final plan. Work our how much space you have and where you would like to grow your fruit, vegetables and flowers. Even if you only plan on growing a few plants in pots, it’s still nice to know where these pots will go, depending on the sunshine your garden gets, how if your plants will grow and if they will actually look nice where you plan on putting the pots. Of course, if you plan on using a lot of space and dedicating a huge chunk of your garden to growing plants, a plan will most certainly be needed as you’ll need to plan carefully, so each plant gets sunshine and is growing next to a plant that will make a good neighbour.
Decide what you shall grow this year
It’s only worth growing what you will actually use. If you hate beetroot, don’t grow it (just because your mate is, doesn’t mean that you have to). If you only eat runner beans, only grow runner beans! If you grow stuff that you don’t eat you’ll end up wasting your time growing something that you’ll just be forced to give away or throw onto the compost heap. Maybe you plan on just growing flowers to cut and have in vases around your home. Again, the same rule applies. If you hate hyacinths, don’t grow them! Just grow what you will actually enjoying growing. Unless you have a huge garden, the chances are space will be precious. Use it wisely.
It’s a time-honoured tradition to see gardeners spend the longest darkest days of winter drooling over seed catalogues (or during modern times, websites via our smartphones, tablets and laptops) cheering themselves up by ordering seeds for the year ahead.
Cultivate new ground
Preparing ground for the year ahead is a job that we all must tackle. It’s tiresome, muddy and can be back breaking. Don’t try digging over your vegetable or flower beds if the ground is frozen or water logged, you’ll just end up doing yourself some damage. It’s best to wait until the soil has warmed a little and dried out somewhat. The first step is to expose the surface of the soil that is to be cultivated. If you are tackling an area that is full of weeds or brambles, take your time. Once you have cleared as much top growth as possible, then you must remove as many of the weed’s roots as you can. By doing this you will reduce the amount of weeds that will return over the years to come. Don’t worry too much about digging over the soil during the winter months, other than for just removing weeds, as this can be done in late winter or early spring when the ground is easier to work with.
It may be a couple of months until you plant out your seed potatoes but now is the time to buy your seed potatoes from the garden centre. Seed potatoes are just small potatoes and don’t resemble tiny seeds! You may have noticed a bag of spuds from the supermarket sprouting at the bottom of your cupboard, but don’t be tempted to plant these as shop bought potatoes can carry diseases, they are a risk to any future plants you may grow in your garden. I have always chitted potatoes before growing, but many gardeners plant their seed potatoes straight into the ground.
When chitting potatoes you want to get your spuds to produce short, sturdy shoots that are dark green or purple n colour. To do this you will need a light but cool area, away from frosts. The easiest way to do this is to place your seed potatoes upright in an egg box, with the most amount of ‘eyes’ pointing upwards. Don’t plant out your seed potatoes until late March or April, once all risk of frost has definitely passed.
The garden often becomes a bit of a dumping ground over the winter months. We don’t want to spend much time outside when the weather is cold and wet, so naturally our outdoor living space becomes neglected. It can often accumulate unwanted items, and soon enough your garden will resemble a bit of a rubbish tip. Get outside this weekend and have a good tidy up. Put things away into their correct places, sweep your patio and if you’re feeling energetic why not get the pressure washer out?!
Your garden will look lovely after just a couple of hours. Perfect for getting you excited and inspired for Spring, which is just around the corner! Getting outside and clearing away the rubbish is the perfect way to work out what space you have available, ready for planning this year’s garden.
Rhubarb is one of my favourite fruits to grow. It’s super easy and every year gives you more and more! By covering your rhubarb with a large plant pot (or a special rhubarb forcer pot) you shall encourage faster growth of the tender stems over late winter and early spring. You’ll be harvesting rhubarb sooner and prolong your rhubarb picking season.
Extra points if you cover your rhubarb forcer in horse manure! As it rots, the manure generates heat encouraging even more growth. You can also cover the rhubarb crowns in a little straw, before placing your forcing pot in place.
What You Can Sow Today
Make a start on your fruit, vegetables and flowers for 2019. This is what I shall be sowing in January. Please refer to the growing instructions on your seed packets.
Lupins, Coleus, Cineraria, Lobelia, Salvia, Pelargoniums, Sweet Peas
Broad beans and onion seeds- Towards the end of January in a cold frame or unheaded greenhouse.
Lettuces, cauliflowers and spinach indoors for an early crop.
Chillies- They require a long growing season, so start now!
Onion sets- these will have a head start on onion seeds, meaning an earlier harvest.
Fruit trees can be planted now, if the ground isn’t still frozen.
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