A new gardening year to look forward to and, with the weather so mild early this month, it is hard to believe we are only in January. Looking around the garden it really shows how mild this winter has been, as the shrubs cotoneaster and pyracantha are still full of berries, waiting for that real cold spell when the birds will soon gobble them up. Although this food source is still available, I like to keep a regular supply of feed on my bird table, along with fresh water, so that regular garden bird visitors are looked after, whatever the weather.
I must admit that weather like this does worry me, because often fellow gardeners get itchy fingers and start sowing seeds far too early. To sow this early you must make sure you have ample heat to keep the plants going and that they are not going to be too big and ready for planting out before the weather or soil conditions allow. This month I will only be sowing a few things in my propagator that need a longer growing season like begonias, geraniums, peppers and aubergines.
Having no snow or hard frosts as yet may also seem a blessing to many gardeners, but we really need it to help slow some of the plant growth down. Already the bulbs in my garden are well advanced and the winter-flowering pansies and violas are beginning to put on a nice show. I have already been around them a couple of times deadheading. Any harsh weather will also help to break up the dug soil in borders and the allotment and hopefully be hard enough to kill off any bugs that are still alive and waiting to attack this year’s crops.
Saving water is important and I've finally had time to fit some guttering and downpipes to my allotment shed and direct it into a water butt. Between now and the spring, with a few heavy downpours, it should be full in no time and ready to use on my crops as and when required.
On Christmas Eve last year I sowed some Bunton's Showstopper onion seed in the greenhouse. These germinated very well and were pricked out into cell trays by the 7th January. I like to prick out these seedlings just as the hairpin-like seedling begins to open out straight. I have pricked out 100 seedlings and, although tiny at present, I hope later in the year they will produce me some whoppers for the show bench and barbecue.
My tuberous begonias have at last died down completely and have been cleaned up and removed from their pots and left in trays on the greenhouse staging for a few weeks. They are now dry enough to put into paper bags and be moved to a frost-free place, which is beside the desk in my office at home (don’t tell the wife) until they are ready for planting again this year. These are one of my favourite flowers, so I will certainly be ordering and growing a lot more this year in my borders, baskets and containers as they always provide a super display.
The geranium and carnation cuttings I took in September last year are now ready for potting on. In October I took a batch of fuchsia cuttings before cutting back the stock plants and moving them in the greenhouse. I must admit I didn’t expect them to root very well, but surprisingly they have so it won’t be long before they’ll need potting up too. Somehow I never seem to have to look for a job!
Andrew's well-stocked bird table
Andrew's onions, pricked out in the greenhouse
Geranium & carnation cuttings in the greenhouse