January is a month of anticipation. Seeds have been ordered, days are lengthening and memories of last summer are still fresh in the mind. If this year is anything like last, I will be more than happy.
It is also a good time to prepare for the busy months ahead. Cleaning, tidying, sterilising and bed preparation are all essential tasks.
Generally the soil will be too cold and wet to start sowing outdoors but if you’re lucky enough to have a polytunnel or a greenhouse you can start off subjects such as broad beans, peas, leeks, salad leaves, onions and early summer cauliflowers.
As we found out last year Mother-nature can have a cruel streak. Spring was bypassed as winter morphed into summer and my bed preparation was not completed until it was almost time for planting out.
Hopefully this year she will not be as cruel, although a cold, frosty spell will do the garden no harm at all.
I took advantage of the mild weather during the Christmas break to spread a good 5-8cm of well-rotted home-made compost over the beds. This is a satisfying job in the fact that you are returning nutrients back the soil and improving the structure at the same time. It also helps to support the many microorganisms which are essential to the soils health. Simply leave it on the surface and let the worms turn it in for you.
Keep a check on young plants and reduce watering. A fungal disease known as botrytis (grey mould) will spread quickly during damp, cold conditions. By spacing out your plants, picking off any yellowing leaves and opening the doors to encourage good air circulation helps.
Keep a look out for wood pigeons who will spot any winter cabbage, spinach, broccoli and cauliflowers which have been left un-netted.
Finally, start “chitting” seed potatoes in a cool, light, frost free environment.