January. I hate hate hate it. Its dark, wet and cold but all of the Christmas things that usually make winter bearable have finished and been packed away and there is this ridiculous pressure to be healthy and start new things – when all you want to do is curl up with a duvet and a chocolate pudding.
And I don’t think you can really do much in the garden in January either, especially if you work every given moment of daylight and rely on a few snatched hours on the weekend between the torrential downpours and the howling gales.
I’m really impatient for the spring to arrive so I can get planting. I even went and just stood in the potting shed for an hour the other day, it was too wet to be outside, but I felt closer to my garden. I went to the garden centre and bought the trays I’ll need in a few months time, and cleaned my tools (again). And twiddled my thumbs.
One useful task we’ve achieved though (thanks to reddit/r/gardening for the tip!) was to sit down and properly plan our vegetable planting for the season ahead. Last year we didn’t have the luxury, we only got our raised beds up in April and then it was a case of just growing anything we could that late in the spring. This year however we have time (so so much of it) on our hands when we can’t be digging or potting or sowing, so we sat and did the thing we like next best in the world – we made spreadsheets!
First we made a list of all of the vegetables we most like to eat – I think a lot of people grow things because they think they should but what is the point if you don’t enjoy eating it afterwards? Then we got out all of the seeds we’ve bought over recent months in dribs and drabs on wet-day trips to the garden centre.
We went through and matched those we want to plant to the list in our spreadsheet, and marked in when they need to be sown, where they need to be sown, when to transplant and when to harvest. We split items into those that will be grown outdoors (even if started in the greenhouse) and those that will be in the greenhouse*. We’re still buying seeds so they’re not complete yet
We didn’t quite go to the extent of our lovely but very committed gardening neighbour Mike who has a plan down to the day, the hour, the air pressure at which he’ll plant everything, but I think our graph will help keep us on track and make sure everything goes in when it is meant to. It will also help us with successional sowings, which we didn’t really manage last year.
Then we drew a map of our vegetable garden and what is currently in each plot. As you’ll see, we’re still getting plenty of veg out of the plot, from brussels sprouts, broccoli, kale and leeks to pak choi, turnips, kohlrabi and winter salads. But we’re going to use this map to plan what can come out so that we can add in the manure the fourth bed is filled with from last year, before spring planting.
So – how to fill a boring January? You could clean your potting shed, polish your tools, sort your pots and seed trays, purchase seeds, build a bird table, clear paths, fix guttering or – you could make a spreadsheet!
Here’s to spring!
* We don’t as yet own a green house. David plans to build one in February…
** A big shout out to reddit/r/gardening for keeping me sane and giving me some great ideas and reading over the winter months