Andrew Tokely's Gardening Tips for January!
04 January 2018
What to do in your garden in January!
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Another gardening year has arrived, which fills me with excitement even on these dull winter days and long nights. There are still a few jobs that can be done in the garden as well as some planning for this years harvest.
1. If you didn’t get the chance to sow your Sweet peas in a cold frame back in October all is not lost. You can sow Sweet peas this month under glass or on a warm windowsill. Sweet peas I find are best soaked in water overnight prior to sowing. This soaking will make the Sweet peas swell up and aid germination. I like to sow into small pots or root trainers filled with multipurpose compost and germination usually starts within 10-14 days.
2. It is wise at this time of year to keep an eye on your Fruit bushes like Gooseberries or Blackcurrants. The buds on these bushes are beginning to fatten up this month. These make a tasty meal for birds, especially Bullfinches or Sparrows if food is scarce. So it is wise to give these plants some form of net protection over your plants.
3. This month I will be making my first sowings of summer bedding. If you want to grow Geraniums or Begonias, these can be sown in a heated propagator at a minimum temperature of 21C (70F). Geranium seed should be lightly covered with a sprinkling of fine grade vermiculite. But as Begonia seed is like dust this needs light to germinate, and is best sown on the surface of the compost with no covering at all.
4. If you are lucky enough to have a cold greenhouse, cold frame or conservatory, you can make an early sowing of a few salad crops. I like to sow some Radish, Spring Onions and baby salad leaves in pots or troughs this month as this will give me some early fresh salads to enjoy within about 40-50 days.
5. Check winter flowering hanging baskets and containers. Often with night frosts and the drying winds this month, you may find that your baskets and containers have dried out. This often happens if baskets are hanging under the eaves of the house, or containers are standing in exposed positions. If this happens give them a good watering early in the morning, allowing time for excess water to drain away before any more night frosts appear.
6. Check over stored tubers of Dahlias and Begonias. Make sure there are no signs of rot appearing. If you do see any signs of rot, and it can easily be removed, cut it away cleanly with a sharp knife and dust the wound with green Sulphur. This will help heal the wound and stop it spreading to the rest of the tubers in store. If any tubers are very badly effected the only answer is to throw them away and buy some new ones for this year.
7. Chrysanthemum stools that have been in a cold frame, since last September can now be moved under warm glass. Move the boxed or potted stools onto the greenhouse staging and give a little water. By watering and giving that added warmth you will soon have some new young shoots appearing that can be taken as cuttings for this years flowering plants.
8. Continue winter digging the vegetable plot this month. I like to get this job completed before the end of the month, as this allows any hard winter frosts time to help break down the lumps in my heavy soil. Then come spring the soil will easily pull down with a crome or a rake ready for planting or sowing some seeds.
9. January is a good time of year to plan your Vegetable plot. Make sure you are not growing the same crops in the same place as last year. Crop rotation is very important to prevent the build up of soil borne diseases like Club Root on Brassicas or White rot on Onions. In simple terms split your plot into three if possible. Try to grow all your Brassicas in a block together, Legumes like Peas and Beans, Onions together, and any Root Crops and Sweetcorn together. This makes planning and crop rotation easier each year.
10. If like me you enjoy a Rhubarb Crumble or pie, then why not try and get an early harvest by forcing some outside. All you need to do is select a clump of Rhubarb that hasn’t been forced before and give it a heavy much of Manure. Then take a large black dustbin or large Black flower pot and stuff this with straw, this will help insulate and make the crown warmer. Then place the pot or bin over the top of the rhubarb crown, pack some more manure around the base of the pot and weigh it down with a brick so it doesn’t blow over. Then check underneath regularly, and you should be harvesting young blanched stems of Rhubarb in early March.
You can also force Rhubarb under cover, for this you have to lift a clump of root, lay it on the ground to get frosted for 1-2 weeks, then pot the clump up and move it under cover in the warm. Cover over with a black bag or bucket, and check regularly and you will soon have fresh Rhubarb to harvest under glass. Whichever way you try, I am sure you will agree it was worth that little extra effort, when you taste that first Rhubarb crumble.