First of all let me wish you a very happy, prosperous and healthy new year. Christmas is almost behind us. Still have the trimmings to take down but in my case that should take lass than 2 minutes and then we are in to 2023. Most important thing for the next three months is the weather forecast.
Frost is not the gardeners friend except that it does kill a few of the creepy crawlies that we don’t like, it also kills some beneficial ones so it six and two threes really. A blanket of snow can be a good thing as it will protect plants from sharp frosts. I can’t remember the last time we had a good snow perhaps it was 2009. We flitted to Wragby that year on December 12th in lovely sunshine and had six inches of snow the next day. Lucky or what.
No doubt you will have added a few ounces over Christmas so an easy way to lose it without paying for the gym is a couple of hours gentle digging. Providing the soil is not too wet it will do a lot of good to turn the soil over and get some frost in to it. Along with general tidying up and essential repairs it will give you a nice lung full of fresh air.
Lets get in the warm for a while. I always sow half a dozen tomato seeds the first week in January. I have to keep these inside until the end of March but I am cropping from these plants by the end of June. Seeds that need a long germination time should also be sewn these include lobelia, snapdragons and geraniums all of which will require protection from the cold but will thrive in a gentle heat. Brassicas harvested now are at their tastiest. I think they need a frost to bring the best out of them as do swede and parsnips.
My dad used to grow winter radish, they had long white bodies and stood the weather very well but, if you do grow them be careful they are really fiery. There is any amount of colour in the garden at the moment my cornus (dogwood) are showing bright red and bright orange stems and really stand out. The various species of Betula (birch) trees have really striking bark especially Betula Jacqmontii which peels to bright red before going back to white.
My bulbs are pushing through. Hyacinth, snowdrops and winter aconite are almost ready to flower and should do so before the end of the month. If you have a deciduous tree or shrub now is the time to move it. Make sure you take a good amount of soil with the item as this will lessen the shock and help the recovery. Make sure you stake them well against the winter winds. If you wish to propagate your berrying shrubs now is the time. Seeds of this variety need a period of cold to break dormancy, as do alpines. Microleaves have become a very popular, and expensive, salad addition yet nothing is easier to grow. They will grow through the winter in a small container on the window sill.
Select your favourite seeds, sow them sparsely in the container, cut them when they are ready. Lettuce, peas and beans do exceptionally well in this manner but other items including leeks and some brassicas. You may be looking at your winter flowering bulbs just starting to break bud but it is also time to order your summer bulbs. Most of these need to be planted in early spring, as soon as the ground is warm and pliable, and with any amount of luck spring is not a million miles away.
Pot grown shrubs will need protection now that we are getting frosts, if you don’t have a cold greenhouse then it is perfectly fine to wrap the pot in an old sack, bubble wrap or something similar that will protect the roots from the frost. If we get a good snowfall, and we haven’t for a few winters so it could be our turn, lightly brush the snow from shrubs and trees, especially evergreens as it can break branches.
Now that we have had a good frost or two the parsnips, swede and Brussels will be a lot sweeter, That leads me to think a good beef stew would go down a treat or for the vegetarians amongst you a root vegetable stew. Good warming fare followed by an apple crumble. That beats your fancy French stuff.
Back to the gardening. If you want some early potatoes now is the time to chit the seed. Just lay one potato in each indentation on an egg tray stand them in a light, cool frost free environment and they should chit within 3 to 4 weeks. Remove all bar two shoots. Plant out in early march. Protect fruit trees from birds. Birds enjoy developing fruit buds and could annihilate your crop. If it does get really cold settle back in your favourite armchair with your favourite tipple and think where you went wrong in 2022.
If you didn’t concentrate on the tipple, if you did work out a new plan for 2023 and reward yourself with one of those chocolates someone bought you for Christmas. You are a very special group of people, all of you from Louise and Heidi to the volunteers. You are making my twilight days bearable and that is the very best anyone can do. You are not the type of person that do your job for a round of applause, but because it is the right thing to do. I hope the articles I write go in a small way to saying thank you for your help.
Thank you and god bless you. I am going to leave it at that for this month.
Again I wish you all you wish yourself.
Happy gardening Mick