We’re two weeks into a new year, and already I can hear the twitching of gardeners’ fingers, eager to get out there and sow. I know the current UK lockdown has us all climbing the walls. But don’t let these stressful times convince you to do something you might later regret.
We’re in the depths of winter, where temperatures are struggling and a low winter sun barely hangs in the sky. For weeks now you’ve been analysing, planning, drawing up plans. Reading through seed catalogues and flicking through Instagram for ideas and inspiration. Seeds have been bought, plants are on order. There’s been an investment on your behalf, both financially and emotionally. So, why blow it all over an impatient decision?
If you know garden guru Charles Dowding, he’d be the first to tell you to lock away those packets of seeds until mid-February. If you don’t believe me check out his ‘Sowing Timeline for Vegetables‘.
I’m not telling you what to do, and I’m not telling you not to sow, I’m just saying pick your moments wisely. Of course there are seeds you can sow this month, and in a week or so I show be reaching for my seed drawers for the chillies, aubergines and peppers. However, I’ll also be armed with heating matts, propagators and a sunny warm windowsill. These are plants that need a long growing season, which is why I start in mid-January. Over the years I’ve learnt how to get the best gemination results, how to sustain seedlings and establish healthy plants. Seeds need heat, once germinated a good light source is also required. Until you can get them running on their own in a greenhouse in late spring, then you have to strike the balance between heat and light. Otherwise, if your seeds do germinate they can develop into weak, leggy plants. In the meantime, there’s still plenty to do to prepare for the arrival of spring. Focus on your garden tools with some maintenance, cleaning and oiling. Give your shed and greenhouse a tidy, organise and clean all pots and trays. Don’t bin plastic pots, re-use them!
Right now your gardening space is looking bare, but it’s the perfect blueprint. You can see the whole space, and visualise what to plant this year. Increase your plant stock at no extra cost by dividing and replanting perennials. Add new structures, and if fences need repairing, do it now whilst your precious plants are tucked away in the ground. If you haven’t done so already, prune and tie-in roses.
If you’re looking at the allotment, get those seed potatoes ordered and start chitting. Apple and pear trees can be pruned during these dormant months. Or, if it’s a fruit tree you want, order and plant a bare root variety now.
If you like to dig your beds, turn them over and expose those sleeping pests, leaving nature to deal with them. Otherwise, apply a thick layer of well-rotted manure. Finally, look for those moments of joy. This pandemic hasn’t been easy for anyone, it continues to take its toll, both physically and mentally, on us all. So, cherish an emerging snowdrop and celebrate the colours of a newly opened hellebore. These are Mother Nature’s early previews, letting us know, winter will soon be packing its bags to make way for a season of new beginnings and colour.