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Thursday 21 December 2017

The Vegetable Plot - January

‘If soil has a bank account, vegetables make the biggest withdrawals.’ Dan Barber 

Working lots of organic matter into vegetable borders and planning a rotation system so the same crops are not grown in the same beds will help feed hungry vegetables and prevent the build up of disease. Drainage on heavy soil will also be improved and leaving heavy soil exposed allows the frost to kill pests and as the soil water freezes and thaws the soil structure will improve. So digging over and treating the border in January is a useful garden task that will also keep you exercised and warm.

If you feel like doing a bit of sowing you can start some broad beans in pots in a cold frame or unheated greenhouse and indoors there’s scope for sowing seeds and growing lettuce, spinach, salad onions and brassicas. If you have a heated propagator, even better. Outside again, if the ground is wet but you really need to get on with the digging then laying a plank of wood to walk on will save compacting the soil.

Covering prepared seed beds with horticultural fleece or clear polythene helps warm up the soil before any sowing. Bare rooted fruit trees and bushes can be planted if the soil isn’t frozen. In late January it’s time for forcing rhubarb and seakale outdoors. In the greenhouse sow French beans for forcing, leeks, and even early crop tomatoes.

  • Sow onion seed in John Innes seed compost in seed trays placed in a heated greenhouse with an average temperature of 13ºC (55ºF)
  • Grow early peaches in the same way
  • In mid January sow seeds for small salads under glass in a slightly heated greenhouse or heated frame. Grow mustard and cress, lettuces and radishes. 
  • Plant potatoes in frames and pots in John Innes potting compost No.2.
  • Pick up your seed potatoes from the garden centre or order from the catalogue
  • Keep egg boxes for chitting potatoes.
  • Prune apples, pears, currants, gooseberries and autumn raspberries

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