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Andrew Tokely's Gardening Tips for January! 05 January 2023

Happy New Year! Despite these dull winter days and long nights, I find there are still a few jobs to do, plus is a good time to plan for this year's 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 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.
2.     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. Who knows those new additions may become old favourites in the future.
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. We recommend using a good quality seed sowing compost and water with tap water.
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 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 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 affected, the only answer is to throw them away and buy some new ones for this year from our Spring Catalogue.
8.    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.
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.    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 mulch 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!

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