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Andrew Tokely's Gardening Tips for January 29 December 2023

Happy New Year! Despite the wet winter we have had so far, there always seems to be a few jobs to do to be ready for the year ahead.
1.  If not done so already, use the long winter evenings to browse seed catalogues or web sites and make your seed order. I always like growing a few old favourites and adding a few new varieties each year for that added interest. This year there are many new and exciting varieties to choose from in both Flowers and Vegetables, all tried and tested by the Kings Horticultural team. Who knows those new additions may become old favourites in the future.
2.  If you didn’t get the chance to sow your Sweet Pea seeds in a cold frame back in October, there’s still time. You can sow sweet pea seeds this month under glass with very little heat or on a warm windowsill. I like to sow into small pots or root trainers filled with a good seed sowing compost and germination usually starts within 10-14 days.
3.    This month I will be making my first sowings of summer bedding flowers. 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. We recommend using a good quality seed sowing compost and always water with clean tap water, as opposed to water from a water Butt.
4.    If you have got the heated propagator on, make use of it for sowing some Chilli and sweet Peppers. These require heat to germinate and require a long growing season. The earlier you sow, the sooner the fruits will be ready to harvest this year.
5.    Seed potatoes will be delivered from this month. As soon as they arrive, lay the tubers out in seed trays in a light, frost-free place. This will enable the tubers to start chitting (producing small green shoots) ready for planting out in spring.
6.    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; then onions and any root crops and sweetcorn together. This makes planning and crop rotation easier each year.
7.    Check on 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 yellow 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 affected, the only answer is to throw them away and buy some new ones for this year from our Spring Catalogue.
8.    If you didn’t get all your winter digging finished due to a very wet November and December last year, make the most of any dry days this month to get on with this important job. Only dig if the soil is not waterlogged or frozen. Hopefully a few windy days will help dry out the soil enough so it can be worked.
9.    If you are lucky enough to have a cold greenhouse, cold frame, polytunnel 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.
10.    During cold frosty days, try to keep off your lawns. Walking on lawns when the ground is frozen or covered with snow will cause bruising to the grass and once thawed you will see black or discoloured grass where you have walked, which will take time to recover.

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