January is usually a quiet month in the garden. Not much happens in the garden in January due to the low light levels and low temperatures. Frankly, this is a relief as I look out through the rain spotted glass into my vegetable patch. I like that January offers us those tantalising days, when the sun comes out and you can almost feel it’s warmth, teasing spring. Those are the best days to get outside and do what needs to be done. Otherwise I highly recommend curling up with a nice warm pair of socks, a cup of tea and a decent seed catalogue!
In my experience there are two types of woman; the ones that get excited about designer handbags and manicures, and the ones with soil under their fingernails who get excited about a new dahlia cultivar. I am proud to say I fall into the second category. A decent pair of socks I can definitely get on board with though!
So January is a great time to prepare for the growing season to come. This does include (although I will not accept any responsibility for your resulting bankruptcy) buying seeds, bulbs, corms and so on. Of course, before we do any of this, we must MUST first check that we are not doubling up on seeds. If you have a friend you can do a seed swap with, January is the time! And if you have old seeds that are still in date, use them instead of buying more. Of course the best possible thing to do is to save your own seeds, but it’s not really the right time of year for a post on that. There are a few exceptions to this; notably parsnip seeds should be as fresh as you can get them.
Another part of the preparations you can enjoy this time of year (with warm socks and a nice cup of tea) is garden planning. Its probably best to do this before you get any seeds. Having a plan gives you a much better idea of what seeds and bulbs you need. This not only saves us time and money but also saves seeds for other growers and gives less power to large seed companies (after all, shouldn’t seeds be a publicly owned good? – check out www.seedsovereignty.info for more on this).
My favourite thing to sow in January is sweet peas. I sow these on a windowsill in my house so they are protected from the cold (and so I don’t have to freeze going to check on them!). They need a reasonably deep pot and can either be sown in root trainers or in pots with around 5 or 6 seeds per pot. They’re wonderful to grow and sprout really quickly if you have good fresh seed, so they can bring a little joy to your January windowsill! I use sweet peas to cover up unattractive fences (I’m looking at you rabbit fencing!) and grow up obelisks to add height to borders. In summer my entire house smells sweet and beautiful with little posies dotted around each room, and any friend I visit is almost guaranteed to receive a posy of their own (note: If I visit you in summer and don’t bring sweet peas, don’t assume we have fallen out, its more likely I forgot!).
IT can be exceptionally hard to sustain a positive attitude and good mental health through these dark winter days. All the fun and festivity of Christmas is over and the goodwill seems to get switched off as quickly as the fairy lights sometimes. Its particularly hard when we find ourselves in another lockdown. There is little to do (or too much to do if you’re working from home, home schooling, caring for another or anything else you wouldn’t usually be doing). It feels bleak and never ending sometimes, but remember that spring is on its way and us gardeners are going to need our strength! So take some time this month. Dream of what you want from the year ahead. Pamper yourself. Plan, draw, redraw and replan your garden or vegetable patch. Wear your ugliest, comfiest jumper like a warm hug and remember not to go too mad on those seed catalogues.