There are one or two things you can do on the allotment or in a kitchen garden this month, but you don’t need to overdo it. That’s especially true if the weather’s frosty or snowing where you are.
However, you might like to get a headstart on the odd thing here and there, so alongside my brief garden diary I’ve included just about everything you can plant, sow or do in a January edible garden.
My quick kitchen garden diary
As usual, January means I’ll mostly be indoors drinking tea, leafing through some seed catalogues and deciding what I’m going to grow this year. I’m briefly going to go outside to put some frost protection (horticultural fleece or recycled bubble wrap) around my pots of Mediterranean herbs, and to quickly cut back some raspberry canes and cherry tree branches, but that’s likely to be all the cold weather outsidey stuff that happens.
Once back inside I’ll sow up some new pots of parsley, chervil and coriander as we’ve used up the last of our soft herbs now and you can usually start them off all year round. I’m also going to dig out a windowsill propagator and start off this year’s chilli seedlings by the radiator. This time around I’ve picked Hungarian Hot Wax for salads and stews, Padron peppers for tapas, Jalapenos for TexMex and pickling, and Apache for stir fries and general cooking.
They have such a long growing season that I’d like to be organised and give them a decent chance to get established. I might even keep a couple of them indoors on a sunny windowsill through the summer if I can remember to hand pollinate the flowers, as it’s an insurance policy against terrible weather.
What to sow outdoors (under cover)
If the ground is frozen, 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
- 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)
- peas (ideally sow in deep modules or guttering, unless you just want pea shoots)
- summer cabbage and cauliflower
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 too 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 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 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
- 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
Are you going to grow any of your own food this year, even if it’s just windowsill herbs? What are you planning on growing?