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The joy of January

by Pippa Greenwood

I’m definitely a long summer days, high light levels, sun-worshipping sort of person. However, there is one advantage to this time of year.

I must confess I'm not a fan of the winter months. I’m definitely a long summer days, high light levels, sun-worshipping sort of person. However, there is one advantage to this time of year: the sense of potential and anticipation for gardeners.

Just think: right now, we have carte blanche to dream and imagine the glorious crops that we'll raise in the gardening year ahead. True, we can’t determine what the weather will be like, or stop our climate from being excessively wet/cold/hot/dry. Neither can we be in total control of all the myriad pests and pathogens that might have counter-plans for our gardens.  But at the outset of the year at least, we can dream of our gardens looking rosy.

To this end, I recommend spending January browsing websites and seed catalogues for inspiration, and treating yourself to a glorious selection of flowers and tasty vegetables, either as seed or as ready-grown small plants. Don't just stick with tried and tested varieties. Branch out (pardon the pun) and try something new. From personal experience, I thoroughly recommend sweet potatoes from ‘slips’ (rather like cuttings), as well as cavolo nero and ladies fingers (which are totally uneconomic but great fun). Try some varieties that are new for 2014.

You might like to experiment with sowing vegetable seeds unusually early; they may end up as sacrificial lambs, but it might be worth the gamble for the same feeling of smugness I experienced one year when I harvested some courgettes in early June. At around the same time, I'd usually be putting small plants in the ground! Sow a batch of extra-early seeds of French beans, courgettes and so forth now, and then sow the majority at the usual time. You might be pleasantly surprised by the results.

Now is the time of year when a spot of brisk gardening can save great deal of time later. I’ll be spending the next few weeks not only planning and sowing, but also weeding, manuring and generally sorting the garden - with the added bonus that these are great ways of working off the excesses of the festive season. Perhaps the winter months aren't so bad, after all.

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Mike Allen 12/01/2014 at 21:34

Hello Pippa.
I have always enjoyed your writings. Actually, I am going to boast. In the nicest way of course. I have already scanned the seed lists and now have all the seeds I desire. Last Sunday, I sat and wrote out the labels, so I am just waiting to get sowing. That old saying. 'There's nowt so strange as folk' This certainly has to apply to gardeners. Think of those times perhaps due to bad seasons etc. The end result has been disasterous. Yet nex year, we are back again. If it's not too late. All the best for 2014. Take care.