January is like the end of a long dark journey, tantalisingly close to the finish line with signs of spring just starting to tease us. But we are not quite there yet, we still have a way to go.
Patience is definitely key, sowing now is a big gamble - temperatures still risk dipping and daylight hours are less than half of where they really need to be. In fact, daylight is the bigger problem as it is possible to manipulate temperature with greenhouses, cold-frames and windowsills, but it’s not so easy to manipulate the energy from the sun that plants so desperately need. Sow too early and plants know there’s not enough rays and will often fail. Weak, leggy seedlings will not have a head start on seeds sown just a little bit later. Although the temptation is nearly always too much.
So, if we can we sit, we wait, we peruse seed catalogues (again), we plan, we dream. If we can't stand it any longer we reach for the sweet pea packets!
I find it’s best to resist the temptation to shy away from the allotment in January. There might not be a anything to sow, or a whole lot to harvest, but their is always some tidying up and sorting out to do.
One thing I tend to in January is repairing or replacing the wooden sides on my beds. There is no need to have wooden sides to your beds. You can still operate a very successful no-dig plot without wooden sides. For me the definition was helpful when having a young son running around as obvious paths kept him (mostly) off the beds! I have grown attached to the aesthetic appearance of them now and take time to check and replace damaged edges. January is the perfect time to do this as the plot is so bare and it’s easy to access them. All my wood is untreated offcuts from wherever and whoever I can procure them from. They are all different shapes, sizes and I like the wabi-sabi look.
Are there infrastructure jobs you can do this month?
For me, by January all of my beds have been mulched thickly with mushroom compost, kitchen compost and allotment compost. But, if you’ve not mulched yet you can still get it done now.
The beds continue to get a good tickle with a hoe just to keep any emerging grass or weeds at bay. Paths and edges too.
By January all my seeds are ordered and sorted. The year ahead mapped out. I am a sucker for a spreadsheet and from now on simple filter will remind me of what needs sowing and when.
I also order seed potatoes towards the end of January. I like to grow 3 varieties - a first early, a second early and a main crop. There are just SO MANY to choose from, I simply can’t resist trying new ones each year. I order early as some of the unusual varieties can sell out and then you are left with whatever the garden centre has to offer which is normally pretty limited.
You can ‘chit’ your potatoes by leaving them somewhere sunny to encourage them to sprout from their eyes. I have to say, more often than not I don’t chit them as I simply do not have the space to have seed potatoes lying all around the place. They store in the woodshed until I am ready to plant after the last frost and they’ve always grown fine.
The anticipation for the first florets of purple sprouting broccoli is building. Remember to keep tying them in to canes for support has they grow taller as you wouldn’t want to lose this seasonal treat to harsh wind.
They are also a target for pigeons, so keep protected either with net of lots of bird scarers. I use old CDs dangling on string.