January

Allotment jobs for January 2022

It must be extremely difficult for new gardeners with the indifferent and unpredictable weather we have had over the last few years, wet winters, cold springs, hot and dry summers, It made it difficult to know when and what to do.  Most of my own crops were late being planted, early in the season because we had a very cold April, and late in the autumn putting in garlic and onions because of the warm October we had, so they were planted in November.    

January is for sowing seeds that need a long growing season, and for making sure all those other jobs that need to be done, are done before we reach February.  Growing great vegetables is not rocket science, if you follow the main two rules, sow seeds at the right time, and select the right variety, barring any problems with pests and disease, you will be successful.  

Most of my growing tips are from three sources, the library of gardening books I have which date back to the 1700s from just about every gardener who ever lived, speaking to and learning from St Marys Allotments old gardeners, and experience through having an allotment at St Marys with my dad from 1969.  

The sowing times given are based on where our allotments are in relation to the rest of the country, I will give further information on feeding, soil preparation, growing tips etc, for seeds sown below in future months, as and when they need doing.        

SOW (under cover) 

  • Onions – you can sow seeds now or later, but the earlier you sow them the bigger they will be as they need a long growing season.  And remember to press the compost down firm once sown, as onions shoot up with such vigour they almost take off!  
  • Tomatoes – sow them now for an early greenhouse crop, try Sungold, Tropical, Rosella, Suncherry Premium, or for tomatoes outside try Red Alert for a huge early crop, or Mountain Magic as they have good blight resistance, sow outside tomatoes in March, My Mountain Magic tomatoes lasted until late October last year!  Remember though its best to sow your cheap tomato seed in Jan/feb and leave the expensive seeds until march.    
  • Chilli and Peppers –  De Cayenne and Jalapeno are fantastic varieties, hot when raw and milder when cooked. 
  • Aubergines – can be quite tricky to grow and you don’t get many per plant.  
  • Winter salad leaves or winter lettuce – “All year round” is a butterhead variety that is very hardy too, I grow them all year round, outside in summer, and in the greenhouse in winter.    
  • Chard – looks fantastic and is easy to grow.   
  • Leeks – Quite a few people start Leeks off now, but I find that instead of them being available throughout winter, they are ready in autumn which is too early for me.  Also, earlier sowings get hit by the allium leaf minor twice, May and September!    
  • Potatoes – I plant my first potatoes 17th January every year in my greenhouse and shed (with a lot of windows) some direct in the ground, others in large pots, and they are great, not as good outside, but well worth the effort, and ready in May.  The best variety for this time of year is Swift, if you can’t get these try Rocket.   

VEG:  

  • Mulch asparagus beds with 2” of well-rotted manure.  
  • Remove dead leaves from Brussel sprouts and other brassicas.  
  • Protect brassicas from pigeons, they are extremely hungry at this time of year!  

FRUIT:

  • Prune raspberries if not already done.  
  • Complete fruit pruning (not stone fruits).  Pruning fruit trees in winter encourages strong growth, pruning in summer encourages slower growth.  
  • If you have an infestation of whitefly, now is a good time to treat it with an organic spray to keep the population down.  Or if you have a cordless Vacuum, hoover them up, it works!  
  • Force rhubarb for sweeter sticks. 
  • Prune grapevines. 
  • Plant fruit bushes and trees.  
  • Renew grease bands around fruit trees.  
  • If your fruit trees do not have strong growth, feed with Bonemeal in late winter, or you can use wood ash from your bonfire, as I do.    

HARVEST:

  • Dig up and leave parsnips on top of the soil on a frosty night, the frost will sweeten them.  
  • Leeks – the old favourite Mussleborough always does well.  
  • Purple sprouting – is a good hungry gap filler, there are lots of good varieties, Claret, or for an earlier harvest try Rudolph.  
  • Brussel sprouts – Maximus is a small compact variety that gives plenty of good quality sprouts, not the biggest but reliable.   
  • Winter cabbage – you can’t beat Tundra, give it a try.  
  • Carrots – they store well in the ground over winter once established, try Eskimo, they are extremely hardy.   

OTHER JOBS:

  • Dig all available ground if the ground is not too heavy or wet, if too much soil sticks to the spade, then it is too wet, and remember, “the early digger gets the crops”.
  • If you can get hold of well-rotted manure leave it on top of the soil and let the worms pull it down, if there is any left around March dig or rotovate it in.  If you can’t get hold of manure, use the leaves we have on site, again leave them on top and dig in what’s left before planting, remember to hold these down with netting or they will blow away!  
  • Plan your crops for this year, including your crop rotation.
  • Have a walk around your plot with a notepad and see what jobs need doing.  It’s important to keep a diary, also take lots of photos and videos.  I started a YouTube vlog about 4 years ago, and it’s really interesting to compare what my allotment used to look like, compared to what it looks like now.   
  • Order seeds or buy them from the allotment shop, we have an excellent selection of trusted and tried varieties.     
  • Look at structures and see if they need any TLC.  
  • Wash all pots and seed tray, I do mine in the dishwasher! 
  • Tidy up shed.
  • Clean greenhouse.  
  • It’s a good time to look for slugs and snails under pots, wooden boards etc.  
  • Start a compost heap.  
  • Make a leaf mould bin, and use the leaves that are delivered on site. 
  • Invest in a wormery.     
  • Test your soil. You can test the Ph. by using a kit, or send a sample away and have it tested properly.  
  • Clean and sharpen tools.  
  • Warm up and dry beds out by covering them with sheets of polythene or cardboard. 
  • Mulch paths with woodchip to avoid muddy paths. 

Before you buy anything from a garden centre, please check out our allotment shop, we have seeds, compost, fertilisers, potatoes, runner and broad beans, onions, garlic, plus many other items, the prices are unbeatable and ALL profits go back into our allotments.  The shop will be open 23rd of January.  

Finally, we have a new Chairman Harj who has already arranged for the front hedge to be cut free of charge by volunteers, he has arranged for the locks to be changed on the front gate and glebe place, one key fits all, look out for the dates of when this will be done in the newsletter.  He wants to involve the members a lot more through newsletters, Facebook, posters on the noticeboards, and would appreciate any feedback on ideas the committee will be looking at.     

References:

Book – Your garden week by week – AGL Hellyer
Book – Dig for victory – Mr Middleton
DVD – Geoff Hamilton – The ornamental Kitchen garden
DVD – The Victorian kitchen garden
YouTube – Geoffrey Smith
In person – St Marys allotment gardeners