Stephanie's Kitchen Garden Diary January 2013
Wow! What a month it's been. As the New Year came in we were basking in mild weather and now, as I write this, we have eight inches of snow! One minute we are opening the greenhouse door to ventilate it and then next we are covering everything in fleece to protect it from the extreme low temperatures. It's certainly a month for keeping an eye on the weather forecast.
Jo was quick to remove the netting from the roof of our vegetable cages as soon as the snow was forecast. Snow is very heavy and can damage the cage if the netting is left on so it is important to do this. However, the pigeons were circling before the netting had even been completely removed, so Jo was quick to cover the vulnerable crops with fleece and cloches to temporaily protect them until the netting can be replaced.
Before the snow arrived, this month was all about digging. We are lucky enough to be able to get well rotted manure delivered by a local farmer to get some goodness into the soil ready for the growing season. This has been dug into the beds where our potatoes, beans and peas will grow next year. Be careful where you add manure as some crops, such as parsnips and carrots, don't like it. But others, such as squashes love it. Pumpkins love to be planted in directly into a manure heap. I love digging soil on a cold fresh Winter morning. It's a great way to keep warm and is really satisfying. My favourite tool is my Sneeboer Ladies Spade, as it's a bit easier on my back!
Don't worry if you don't like digging, or can't get access to farmyard manure. There are lots of other soil improvers you can use to beef up your soil. In the Kitchen Garden, we also use Rockdust in our beds which is fantastic for adding trace elements and minerals to your soil. It can be used for all vegetables which means you don't have to worry about where you are putting it. Simply scatter it on and rake it in. No digging required!
We are still harvesting leeks and parsnips in the Kitchen Garden and they taste delicious and the last of the brussel sprouts adorned my plate this week. But the bad news for January is that my spinach has been attacked by snails. Jo has been applying Organic Slug Pellets and has had some success with this, but during the tidy up of the garden, she came across their hiding place. Needless to say they have been removed and we'll be keeping a closer eye on that location in future! Jo will continue to apply the slug pellets and we're also adding a Slug Barrier System as an added defence.
Our seedlings in the greenhouse are coming along nicely and our rhubarb plant brought undercover to be forced looks set to give us a very early crop quite soon. I even have Jalapeno Chillies ready to harvest - in January! So whilst it's cold outside, the greenhouse still gives us the opportunity to keep crops coming.
Here are some of the jobs we’ve got planned for February in Stephanie’s Kitchen Garden:
- Put your seed potatoes in trays to begin chitting as soon as they arrive. They need to be in a light, frost free place.
- Start sowing seeds undercover in the greenhouse. We will be sowing tomatoes, aubergines, peppers, rocket, cucumber, carrots, broccoli and brussel sprouts.
- Cover the soil with polythene or horticultural fleece to warm it up ready for Spring sowings.
- Sow some early peas in trays in the greenhouse to be harvested as pea shoots. These taste great in salads - that's if I haven't already eaten them before I make it back to the house!
We're always here to offer advice and support – go to the ‘Ask the Expert’ section on the website and Email Horticultural Advisor Jo Blackwell with your Kitchen Garden queries or Pest Control expert Gavin Hatt and they'll do their best to help!
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Our 116-page 2013 catalogue is out now and it's packed full of gardening ideas, products and solutions to the problems every gardener faces, plus plenty more seasonal ideas to help get the harvest in and keep it fresh!