As the new year sets in, the minds of keen gardeners are turning to their outdoor spaces. If you enjoy nothing more than tucking into fruit and vegetables from the garden, read our growing guide and prepare for a bumper summer harvest.
Prepare the area
Winter might not seem like the best time to start sowing seeds, and January is usally the coldest month of the year, so not much can be planted outdoors. However, if you invest in a greenhouse – take a look at these examples – you can make a start on your planting.
January is a good time to order in your seeds and plan your spring planting programme, as well as to give the garden a general once-over to remove built-up debris and any weeds. Prepare your gardening tools and carry out any maintenance or repairs if necessary.
Tidy the borders and give your greenhouse a clean if you already have one in situ – this will ensure the right amount of light can penetrate through the glass and help any plants inside to grow.
Sow vegetable seeds
It’s a good idea to wait until the worst of the winter is over before you start planting outside, so in the meantime, invest in some planting boxes and start sowing vegetables like leeks and cabbage in the greenhouse.
Lettuce seeds can also be planted now, and you can sow onions from seed, which you should plant and position on a warm windowsill ready to bed out in March. If you’ve got celery growing in the garden, the plants should be lifted out and any that remain can be covered with a layer of straw to guard against frost.
Chicory growing outdoors should be potted up and covered with an upturned pot, as the roots will need to be kept in a warm, dark place if you want to feast on the sweet forced pale shoots that should emerge around six weeks later.
Have a go at growing fruit
January is a good time to prune a number of fruit trees and bushes in the garden, and remove shrivelled up fruit left behind from past seasons. Summer raspberries, blackberries, gooseberries and currants should all be pruned now, along with some types of apple tree. Inspect apple and pear trees for canker and check that stakes, supports and ties are all intact and don’t need repositioning after strong winds.
It isn’t the right time to start sowing many fruit seeds, but you could have a go at planting alpine strawberries, which will need to be kept warm and in moist compost. The strawberries can be transferred from the greenhouse or windowsill around April.
You could also try your hand at growing blueberries now; invest in some pots and naturally acidic peat-free compost, which blueberries require, and consider growing at least two plants for a better crop than you may have with just a single plant.
Maintain your herb garden
If you grow herbs in your garden, now is the time to prune low-growing herbs and protect sorrel and parsley with cloches. Bring tender herbs like dittany inside and store them on a sunny windowsill during the winter.
Herbs in containers outside will need protection from the cold, so use fleece stuffed with straw, or bubble wrap, to insulate the pots. If possible, move the containers next to house walls and group them together.
There isn’t much to grow in January, although you could plant some mint. Uisng the plumpest roots you’ve dug up, lie them across a pot filled with compost, cover with soil and store in the greenhouse.