We begin a new year with high hopes for the growing season ahead. Although the garden maybe looking worse for wear, the delicate unfurling of a lone snowdrop is an indication spring is coming. Yes, we still have the prospect of enduring another couple of months of winter, but in the words of the late, great George Harrison, “All things must pass”.
So, whilst Jack Frost does his worse, take the time to order your seeds and draw up your garden plans for 2022. But don’t get too cosy, as there’s still plenty of jobs to do in the garden that’ll keep you busy this month.
1. Recycle your Christmas tree
Don’t be too quick to discard your Christmas pine tree. If you can shred it, the chippings will make great compost for ericaceous plants, such as camellias and blueberries. Try using the branches as plant supports for peas and broad beans.
2. Sow chillies and peppers
Chillies and peppers require a long growing season. So, if you have somewhere warm and bright, such as a heated greenhouse or a warm sunny windowsill, you can start them off now.
Fill a 9cm pot, or seed tray with compost. Tamp the soil down to create a firm surface, and then sow several seeds, 1cm apart. Cover over lightly with compost, water in and place somewhere warm. Seeds can take between 8-21 days to germinate.
Once seedlings have grown their true leaves (these follow on from seed leaves and look similar to the foliage of the mature plant), plant seedlings individually into 9cm pots, and water in. Place pot somewhere warm and bright, such as a heated greenhouse or conservatory to grow on. Remember to keep soil moist.
3. Sow microgreens
Mustard and watercress are an easy and quick crop to grow. Fill a pot or container with damp compost, then sow thinly across the top. Next, place the container somewhere warm, where germination should occur quickly. Once you see shoots growing, transfer the container to a warm, sunny kitchen windowsill where they can be easily reached when preparing a meal.
For an early crop of rhubarb, place a rhubarb forcer, or a large container (turned upside down), over the emerging rhubarb. By keeping the crown in darkness, you’re forcing the stalks to grow quickly as they search for light. After eight weeks, the stalks should be 20-30cm long, sweet tasting and ready to eat.
5. Harvest veg
Continue to harvest vegetables from your veg plot. Remove any yellowing or fallen brassica leaves, as they could be hiding pests. Once veg beds are empty, turnover the soil and add a thick layer of well-rotted organic matter, or compost. The winter weather will help breakdown the mulch, releasing its valuable nutrients into the soil. The matter will also help improve soil structure.
If you haven’t ordered your seed potatoes, do it now. The sooner they arrive, the sooner you can start chitting.
Chitting is speeding up the aging process of a tuber. When you come to plant out your tubers in mid-March, they’ll have grown long tendrils, giving them a head start. To chit seed potatoes, stand them apart with their eyes facing upwards. Empty egg boxes make ideal holders.
Then, place them somewhere warm and bright, such as a kitchen windowsill or warm greenhouse. Check them regularly, and in six weeks your tubers will be ready to plant out.
7. Store fruit & veg
Any fruit or veg currently in storage should be checked regularly to ensure they haven’t spoilt. Turn them over, and remove any decaying or damaged produce. Ensure they aren’t touching, as this will encourage a good airflow around them.
8. Plant maintenance
Before hellebores open their flowers, cut away the leaves. Not only will it highlight their blooms, but old foliage can look unattractive and potentially have hellebore leaf spot.
Winter pansies may now be struggling to look their best, and will need a helping hand to prevent them from going to seed. Prune regular, removing any fading blooms.
9. Winter wildlife
Ensure bird-feeding stations are regularly topped up, and water supplies are fresh and not left to freeze. If you have a frozen fish pond avoid smashing the ice, as this can shock or even kill the fish. Instead, try to melt the ice gently with hot water. Don’t worry about harming the fish, as they tend to remain at the bottom of the pond during the winter.
With festive plants such as poinsettias, amaryllis, and early blooming hyacinths now looking past their best, this is an ideal time to introduce a new range of indoor plants to your home. Whether it’s a trendy succulent or a refined orchid for the bathroom, there are endless options for the indoor home-grower. Could this be the year you bring the outside in?
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