‘Seasonal cold is not unwelcome in the January garden, if only because heavy rain is less likely when temperatures are low. There is a French saying that ‘a bad year comes in swimming‘.
‘When the weather is impossible, give a little time indoors to planning. Decide what you want to grow, check the seed catalogues, and order your seeds in plenty of time. A food garden should always be producing and working for you. It should never be fallow or resting. So even in bleak January, you should be able to lift leeks, parsnips, Jerusalem artichokes and celery – all crops that can be ‘stored’ in the soil.‘ (David Mabey)
With organic raised-bed gardening, it is particularly important to look at previous years’ rotational plans, in order to ensure a good rotation of crops, and decide which type of crop to grow in each bed for this coming year. A typical four-year rotation plan would be potatoes, followed by pulses, followed by brassicas, followed by roots. Details of different rotational plans are given in all good basic gardening books and apply to all vegetable growing, whether on raised beds or not.
This is also the time to be looking back over the successes and failures of the previous year, and deciding whether to grow the same varieties or to try something different this coming year.
As Geoff Hamilton says ‘Gardening is all about optimism. In fact, January is one of the most exciting months of the year because there’s so much to look forward to. At the end of the month the first spring bulbs will break through and buds on trees and shrubs will start to fatten. Spring really is just around the corner.’
Roots and tubers
Parsnips can still be harvested throughout the winter. Grown on modern raised beds with access paths between, you should not have any trouble lifting them out of the ground, and there should be no waterlogging of the crops to contend with.
After high winds or rainstorms, check on any autumn-sown Aquadulce broad beans and Meteor peas that you may have growing on raised beds under fleece, and replace the fleece or peg it down securely to protect crops from pests and frost.
Onions, leeks and garlic
Check on any autumn-planted onions and garlic, and keep them free of weeds, to help keep the soil around them as open to any sun and as dry as possible. Any leeks still to be harvested should be weeded and continually earthed up to keep them white with long blanched stems.
Continue to keep over-wintering cabbages, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflowers and kale netted against pigeons, whilst removing any yellowing leaves from the plants and keeping the stems well earthed up. Keep protecting any crops of ‘cut and come again’ perpetual spinach (leaf beet) from frost and pests such as slugs and snails with a covering of horticultural fleece.
Copyright (c) 2013 Torbay Organic Gardening Society, 25 Church Road, St Marychurch, Torquay TQ1 4QY
Tel 01803 328055 Leaflet No: CAL1