Gardening

January Jobs for the Vegetable Patch

It’s cold, wet and frosty outside in the garden in January, but there are still lots of jobs that need doing ready for the growing year ahead. I always find January a tricky month as I get so excited for the year ahead. I want to start growing everything, but in reality there isn’t much I can get in the soil just yet. I want to get outside and excitement starts to take over. I start by deciding what I want to plant for the upcoming year. If you are wanting to get outside more this year and have a go at growing your own take a look at my list to ‘to do’ jobs for January. Even if you’ve never grown anything before and are a complete novice, I am sure there are a few things on my list that you can do.

Plan what you want to grow and where

I love planning the garden each year! It gets me so excited- but I have to remind myself not to let my fantasies run wild. It’s so easy to become over ambitious and feel disheartened when plans start to fail. If you’ve never grown before, I recommend sketching the current layout of your garden, taking some basic measurements too. Even if you just have a balcony or patio that you would like to grow on, it’s still extra useful to know where you are going to stand pots or hang baskets.

There internet is full of useful information when it comes to what plants grow well and where, when to sow and even some ready made plans for you to use as inspiration. I love Pinterest for browsing gardening tips. Think about what style of garden you would like to do. Classic deep beds? Raised beds? Square foot gardening? Remember though to keep it simple and start with just a few plants at first.

Clear away the rubbish

The compost heap is steaming but the box itself didn’t escape Jack Frost.

This week I really need to make a start on clearing away all of the rubbish that has accumulated over the past year. You may have read that due to a tough year of divorce, I stopped gardening near enough all together, I grew nothing except a few potatoes and garlic. In just 12 months my garden has become overgrown with weeds. My first, but most important job is clearing these weeds away and start preparing the soil for this gardening year. High winds had recently blown plant pots all over the garden, the wood store needed rearranging and the kids garden toys needed tidying up. The most untidy area was the side of our property where we keep our wheelie bins. There were lots of bits and bobs that needed taking to the tip. A tidy garden will instantly make you love your outside space more instantly. Once all of the rubbish is gone, you will naturally want to spend more time outside.

Today I booked a tip run, for next Friday (due to Covid we are having to book time slots for our local tip) and I am so excited to get those annoying bits of rubbish out of the way, and the garden looking like a clean slate again. I have also noticed how green the concrete has turned from moss and algae. I’ve treated myself to a new pressure washer in the January sales, to give the concrete a good clean next weekend. That will make the side entrance to our property a lot more appealing.

Clean the greenhouse and containers

This job is top of my to-do list for the next few days. It’s an important job to do, but certainly one of the least appealing or glamorous! Washing the greenhouse inside and out with warm soapy water ensures that more light is let into the greenhouse, giving your plants the best amount of sunlight possible. Grime, moss and algae can also attract pests and diseases that can seriously damage your plants- and that is never a fun problem to deal with. Cleaning out any containers and plant pots with hot soapy water will ensure than any diseases lurking in the soil last year, wont transplant to any new seedlings. You don’t want to loose precious crops because you didn’t wash up your pots!

We also need to replace a broken pane of glass on the greenhouse roof. It happened back in November. I found the broken pane the day after the neighbours had been letting off fireworks on the other side of the fence. Whether it was a rocket falling onto the glass or the loud bangs vibrating the glass, either way it got broken. Luckily we have spare glass in the shed.

Spread organic matter and dig out weeds

If you haven’t dug over beds yet, do so now as long as the ground isn’t too frozen. Once the beds have been dug over, nature can run it’s course and allow the soil to break down large clods naturally and soil structure to improve. Avoid standing on the soil as much as you can, to reduce the soil compacting and becoming hard to work in spring.

If the ground is still frozen and hard to dig add a layer of compost on top, or some well rotted manure or leaf mould. Once the soil has warmed up enough to dig, dig in the compost or manure/leaf mould. This will add lots of vital nutrients back into the soil giving your plants an extra boost!

Force rhubarb

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.

Rhubarb was one of the only things I managed to pick, store and eat over the last year. This was because I neglected my passion of growing my own food. With divorce came depression and I left the soil bare. But, the rhubarb didn’t let me down. Returning year after year, with little to no effort, it still popped up to remind me the beauty of a food garden.

What you can sow now

Broad beans- Towards the end of January in an cold frame or unheaded greenhouse.

Lettuces, cauliflowers and spinach indoors for an early crop.

Onion seeds in a propagator.

Fruit trees can be planted now, if the ground isn’t still frozen.

My favourite January plant- Snowdrops (Galanthus)

I don’t know many people who doesn’t know what a classic snowdrop looks like. This hardy perennial bulb is one of the first to pop up in the new year. In late winter and early spring, you can find these beautiful little flowers pop up all around the garden, in parks and on the edge of roadsides, brightening the dark gloomy days. Spotting my first snowdrop of the season always puts a smile on my face.

If you want to plant snowdrops, I thoroughly recommend checking out Poundland (of all places!). The snowdrops that I purchased from Poundland have done surprisingly well! Plant the bulbs in late spring in a partially shades area of the garden. Ove the years, the bulbs shall multiply giving you  more and more each year. These large clumps of snowdrops can be lifted and split, then replanted around the garden. Simply lift the plant when the leaves start to turn yellow and die back, and gently split the clump of bulbs with your hands. Remember to plant them back into your chosen locations as soon as possible.

Hazel Newhouse

Hazel is a mum to 3 daughters and a son, she lives in Bedfordshire with her husband, kids and pets. Hazel has written for various publications, and regularly works alongside popular parenting and gardening brands.

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