Ah, January, the ‘month of the snows’ where only the hardiest of Perennials are thinking about going into the garden. However, the saying that you shouldn’t work the soil when it is waterlogged should be heeded. You will only compact it if you do, stamping out oxygen and life. There are some jobs you can do; we’ll take a look at those later. January feels like a mean and narrow month with short, restrictive days. The garden may not be looking it’s glorious best but it can still be enjoyed. Where you’ve left old seed heads in situ; there is form, structure and interest as well as shelter and food for a multitude of beasties. Bulbs that have been lulled by a mild December have thrown up their green spears, only to return to suspended animation when the temperatures drop. Clever little things! The long yellow male catkins of the hazelnut stand out against the grey sky, and old faithful – the robin, provides us with a dash of colour as he presides over our activities.
So what is the point of January? Well, in our Northern hemisphere, it’s primarily for planning. You don’t have to re – landscape the garden but if that is your intention, then this month is a good time to think it through. Planning might comprise of considering how to improve and condition your soil, preparing to make the garden more bio-diverse or more attractive to pollinators and wildlife (this is covered in detail in our Cultivators module). It may include the addition of fruit trees which can be planted now while they are dormant or the strengthening of support structures. Now is the time to devise your sowing and planting plan for the year.
There are some jobs you can do to feed your gardening habit – prune well established apple and pear trees, add well rotted manure to the empty areas of the veggie patch /beds, clean pots and seed trays, check on your stored vegetables and hopefully continue to harvest your winter vegetables; cabbages, kale, cauliflower, sprouts, leeks and sprouting broccoli. If you have growing space indoors you can start garlic, onions and leeks in modules; sow peas, broad beans, winter salad leaves, radishes, early summer cauliflower and spinach in pots filled with multi-purpose compost, and buy and chit your seed potatoes.
But the biggest joy to January is that you get to sit in front of the fire, with a cuppa, some left over Christmas naughty and a seed catalogue! You get to plot and scheme your way through each page -“I’ll grow that and that and that…..” If you’re anything like me, you then have to go back through your wish list and cross at least half of it off. My enthusiasm vastly outweighs the practicalities of finance, time and actual growing space! January is a month for the gardener to take stock, plan and engage in hope filled activities that bring a hint of more generous and much broader days to come.