What to sow & do in a January kitchen garden

What to sow and do in a January kitchen garden or allotment uk

Are you thinking about starting a January kitchen garden or allotment this year? There are a few activities you can carry out to help things along over the next few weeks, but you don’t need to overdo it.

That’s especially true if the weather’s wet, frosty or snowing where you are, so feel free to take it easy instead if you like.

However, if you do want to get a small headstart, after my brief garden diary for January 2024 I’m including just about everything you can plant, sow or do in the UK this month.

My January kitchen garden diary

As usual, January means I’ll mostly be indoors drinking tea, leafing through some websites and seed catalogues and deciding what I’m going to grow this year. For me, this is a very quiet month for gardening, mainly because the ground’s cold and not much is growing anyway.

Some of my favourite places to get seeds and small plants include:

Oooh, decisions, decisions. These shops usually have multi-buy and cut price offers at this time of year, so they’re always worth a look.

If you want to try out some unusual or fancy varieties of seeds you can also visit Sarah Raven. If you’re on a tighter budget, try branches of The Works or Lidl for a small range of cheap in-store options.

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rosemary plant and wooden container to protect from frost in January kitchen garden

If it looks like there’s going to be a hard frost or snow then I’ll briefly go outside to put some frost protection (horticultural fleece, sacking or recycled bubble wrap) around my pots of Mediterranean herbs.

I might quickly cut back some dormant raspberry canes and cherry tree branches too, but that’s likely to be all the cold weather outsidey stuff that happens. Brrrr.

Once back inside I’ll sow up some new pots of parsley, chives and coriander as we’ve used up the last of our soft herbs now. You can usually start them off all year round indoors, and they make wintery meals more interesting for a few pence and very little effort.

What to sow outdoors (under cover)

If the ground is frozen or waterlogged, don’t try to sow seeds, sets or tubers yet. In milder areas you may be able to start to warm the ground up if you have a cloche, cold frame or polytunnel though, and you can sometimes pick up a clear plastic cloche or two in your local pound shop.

You can sow:

  • broad beans
  • some types of lettuce
  • ‘sets’ of onions and shallots (these are small bulbs, not seeds)
  • oriental leaves and mustards
  • rocket
  • winter salad mixes

Check the back of each seed packet carefully to make sure they can be sown in January.

Generally, it’s better not to force the issue in January as most seeds will do better in February or March due to increased daylight and temperatures.

What to sow indoors in January

  • baby leaf salad (on a cool, bright windowsill)
  • chillies (in heated propagator)
  • leeks (early types)
  • onions
  • peas (ideally sow in deep modules or guttering, unless you just want pea shoots)
  • spinach
  • summer cabbage and cauliflower
sowing seeds in January UK cress for salads

As mentioned earlier, you can also start off a few soft herbs on a cool, bright windowsill too.

If you aren’t in too much of a hurry, all of these seeds can be started off in February instead, so there’s no rush.

Other garden jobs to do in January

There aren’t many garden jobs to do in January, you might be glad to hear. If the weather’s bad, you can stay indoors and plan what you’re going to grow for the coming season.

If you absolutely insist on doing some edible garden work this month, here’s what you can do:

  • Check any stored apples, pears, cabbages, onions and root vegetables regularly for signs of rot
  • ‘Chit’ seed potatoes in boxes (leave them exposed to a bit of light so they start to sprout ‘eyes’)
  • Cover strawberry plants with a cloche or move potted ones to greenhouse for earlier cropping
  • ‘Force’ (cover to exclude light) established rhubarb plants for earlier cropping – but don’t force a plant this year if you already forced it last year or it will become exhausted and could die (yeah, rhubarb, it’s January back-to-work time and we all know how you feel babes)
  • Order seeds, sets and gardening equipment for the coming season
  • Prepare soil for spring planting
  • Protect overwintering brassicas from pigeons, and remove any yellowing lower leaves
  • Plant dormant fruit trees and bushes, if weather allows
  • Winter prune apple and pear trees, and currant and gooseberry bushes

And don’t forget to check our guide to British seasonal food in January so you know what to pick this month. Harvesting is one of the best things about having a kitchen garden.

Are you going to grow any of your own food this year, even if it’s just windowsill herbs?

What are you planning on doing in your January kitchen garden, or on your allotment?

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