January is a time reflection and preparation in the veg patch, time to put those resolutions into practice and work off a little of that christmas excess. It’s a time for weeding, removing debris and adding last years compost and manure. On clay soils allow the frost to break down the srtucture, then when it ‘s dryed out a little you can dig in your composted material, don’t tackle it when its wet you’ll only compact the soil. On sandy soil you can get away with just removing perrenial weeds and leaving the compost and manure on the surface letting the worms do the rest.
Digging is the much contested by people of the ‘no-dig’ movement as it disturbes the natural ecosystem of the soil. It is prefered to just add compostable layers to the surface leaving the layers of the soil untouched. I find it a good idea for the lazy gardener in me. However it has very practical implications, digging or rotivating to the same depth each year especially on heavy soil will create a pan or solid layer under the soil.
Which ever soil type you have, mulching is the key, adding a layer to cover and warm the soil. The time spent now will save you hours in the summer months. Firstly clear the site and add your compost, then you need a permiable membrain, many garden centres supply this on a roll but it is just as feaseable to use cardboard or news paper as I do. If you use card or newspaper make sure it’s well overlapped and you want to use a whole news paper each time . It’s also a good idea to wet the paper when its down to stop it flying away, also don’t do what I did and choose the windiest day and watch half the news papers migrate next door.
When you have a thick layer you need to cover it with your mulch, I like to use straw, but there are many alternatives, such as composted leaves, or bark chips. I like to keep the mulch as thick as possible at least 3-4 inches. This does three things keeps weeds at bay, warms the soil and will keep the ground moist in the warmer months.
January days are short so it’s a great time to get out the seed catalouge, plan the new year and dream of July.
Things to plant in January
due to the temperature this time of year most veg should be sown undercover in a greenhouse or windowsill. Raddish
Onions from seed as they need a long growing season. You can also start to chit potatoes, place your potatoes in a tray or stood in egg boxes and leave them to start to shoot. I just heard a great tip for the green house, if a green house has been in use for a number of years it may get problems with red spider mite, if this is a problem a good tip for getting rid of them is to plant some broad beans in pots, let them grow the spider mite will gather on the plant as it grows then when it seems infested take the pots out and despose of them on the compost heap.
Most of these plants will be planted out once the weather gets warmer from march onwards.