Stephanie's Kitchen Garden Diary - January 2011
I might not be in the majority here but I absolutely love January in the garden! Why? It's the sense of anticipation, the planning and all the big gardening ideas I've got for the coming year - and the fact that I'm looking out onto a virtually blank canvas in Stephanie's Kitchen Garden only adds to that feeling of horticultural excitement.
The only downside of course is the weather and its reluctance to play ball is certainly frustrating! Cold, wet soil isn't conducive to direct seed sowing but one of the aspects I love about gardening is rising to meet the challenges the weather - and pests and diseases for that matter - throw up. I'll be making the most of my greenhouse, heated propagators and all the benefits they bring at this notoriously grey and cold time of year and I've no qualms about letting my trainee horticulturist Courtney loose with a bag of John Innes seed sowing compost, a dibber and a packet of seeds!
And it's not just the greenhouse where Courtney will be based; as you can see from the update she's penned below, I've made sure she's got plenty of hands-on outdoor experience to go with her seed sowing activities and all that fresh air, exercise and gathering of gardening knowledge will stand her in good stead!
Courtney – over to you…
The first task of the year, and not the most pleasant was to source a good batch of manure. Once I had tracked down a local farm which had plentiful supply, me and a member of the Customer Service team who works in the office – Andrew - went along to the farm to bag it all up. 30 sacks later, it was back to the garden to unload and start spreading.
We started by equally sharing out the bags of manure against the beds and then dug it all in. I made sure this was then dug in a couple of times each week as it helped to break it down far quicker!
As soon as the seed potatoes had arrived, these were unpacked and placed upright into egg boxes. These are now in their cool, dry place where they will stay to chit before planting time begins!
So far this month I have harvested all of my Parsnips which were the sweetest in smell, and absolutely delicious after the hard frost they endured. I have also had roughly around 32 leeks out of the ground and the rest of the sprouts – all extremely delectable!
We also got to harvest the potatoes which we planted in three planters right back in November; this was a slight experiment as the greenhouse wasn’t heated and watering was sporadic. However we still managed to succeed, just a tad undersized!
Removing Old Crops
All of last year’s complete crops have now been removed from Stephanie's Kitchen Garden apart from the odd existing one or two, and have been placed into compost bins where they will rot and break down into a superb consistency, which will work wonders in the Kitchen Garden once scattered and dug into the beds.
I am still regularly raking leaves and building up my leaf mould pile in the wire leaf cage but supplies are slowly coming to a halt.
I have now planted the rest of the Garlic, so all cloves are now in their final growing place where they’ll stay in raised beds with great rich soil. I cannot wait to see to the results of the different varieties!!
So far this month I have sown more broad bean seeds, cauliflower and I have tried sowing spinach Emilia which was brought from Moles Seeds, just to test. All of these seeds are placed in the greenhouse inside the Vitopod Heated Propagator, which works really well every year!
I have moved the sweet peas from out of the greenhouse to inside the cold frame to harden off before we plant. However, the broad beans will be staying in the cold greenhouse for some preliminary hardening off for a little while longer, just until the weather starts to show some improvement as being raised in the propagator they’re just a little too delicate and soft to tolerate the frosts right now.
So far I have added calcified seaweed to the bed I will be planting the brassicas in as this raises the PH in acid soils (in much the same way that lime does) and they will thrive on this.
I then added rock dust to all of the other beds and scattered on top and left to soak for a couple of days before digging over. Benefits include high yields, tastier fruit and vegetables and increased resistance to pests and drought. Rockdust is available in 4kg (covers 8 sqm) and 20kg (40 sqm) buckets.
Other jobs around the Kitchen Garden...
I also cut back all the thyme from under the raised bed-grown fig tree in as it started looking like a thick, straggly mat and was preventing water getting down to the roots.
Apart from all of the above that’s it’s just a big general tidy up, keeping it all neat and nice. Hoeing the soil to loosen the surface compacted by winter rains; this will give the garden a cultivated look, and make an enormous difference to its appearance. This job is physical enough to keep you warm!
If Courtney's January gardening experiences have made you think that 2011 is the year you get out in the garden or spurred you on to take up a spade or fork, invest in some raised beds or even splash out an just a couple of packets of seeds and a budget propagator, then you're in good hands as the grow your own revoultion gathers pace! A great way to start is by requesting a copy of our brand new, 116-page 2011 catalogue, jam-packed with new gardening ideas for the kitchen garden, patio and greenhouse - it's an inspirational addition to any potting shed or coffee table and the perfect platform to rekindle your gardening interest or start over completely. We've also got the resources to look after you once you start growing; you can pick up loads of handy tips by following us on Twitter and Facebook; we've got a busy gardening blog on the go and we're always here to offer advice and support too! Throw in volume two of our ever-popular garden pest control guide, the 'Little Book of Least Wanted Pests', and we're sure we can help you grow your own with plenty of success!