“The more it snows tiddely-pom
the more it goes tiddely-pom
the more it goes tiddely-pom on snowing
and nobody knows tiddely-pom
how cold my toes tiddely-pom
how cold my toes are growing.” (A.A. Milne)
For a gardener, January is often the bleakest month of the year, and this was certainly true this year. Although the month started off mild, the weather soon turned cold, then snowy. Many people consider it a month when the garden should be avoided, and this year there was little choice. In the garden here we have spent much of the month painting garden benches indoors. A necessary but not very exciting job.
Even though the garden over much of the last month has been an uninviting place, there is a fascinating and complex process of renewal going on out there. Micro-organisms, worms and all kinds of other minibeasts are converting fallen leaves, manure and compost into nutrients that the coming year’s crops and other plants will use to make leaves, stems, flowers, seeds, roots, bark and wood etc. As the earthworms munch, they tunnel along, aerating the soil, an essential process for healthy plants. So although you may not be in the garden yourself, there is plenty of activity going on out there.
Lost time in the garden in January means that there are still fallen leaves and the cutting back of herbaceous plants to do. Much of February will be taken up catching up on these kind of routine maintenance jobs.
A few things to do in winter.
Winter never seems to really be winter these days (despite recent climatic evidence) but a mish-mash of autumn and spring. Late January and February can offer some of the most subtle and delightful garden pleasures.
There are some local gardens where some of winter’s treasures are on view. Via the Shropshire pages of the Plant Heritage website www.plantheritage.com can be found the national collection of Chimonanthus or “Winter Sweet” belonging to Fr David Maxfield. This is the only national collection of Chimonanthus and is set in 1\3 of an acre. Opening is by appointment and the charge is a donation to Plant Heritage.
Also in Shropshire there is a national collection of Sarcococca or ‘Christmas Box’ near Whitchurch in the grounds of Gredington, the property of the Rt Hon The Lord Kenyon. The collection contains 14 taxa and is arranged, for comparison, in a walled garden. Again, opening is by appointment and admission costs £4.
On February 24th this year the garden of Mrs Margaret Owen MBE will be open at ‘The Patch’, Acton Pigott, Nr. Acton Burnell Shrewsbury SY5 7PH. The garden will feature Snowdrops, Hellebores and much more and is open in aid of the Shrewsbury & District Multiple Sclerosis Society from 11am – 3pm at £3 per person.
I hope you can take the opportunity to treat yourself this winter!
In the kitchen garden.
Over the next month in the kitchen garden I will really have to get stuck into preparing the ground ready for this year’s growing season. Experience has shown me that unless you are on top of the weeding, digging and mulching before the growing season gets going then you will be chasing the jobs for the whole season to come. As a result, the time spent on the growing side of things will suffer and you won’t get as much out of the ground as you could have done.
Sowing has already begun in a modest way with cabbages and cauliflowers, as well as sweet peas all germinating on the propagation bench. During February I will be sowing lettuce, carrots, broad beans, beetroot and peas directly into the ground. I will also be planting out onion sets. Of course all this depends on the weather.
Now is the time to get your seed potatoes. First and second earlies benefit from chitting as it encourages quick maturity which means that crops can be lifted sooner: Place the tubers in a cool, frost free, bright, well ventilated and dry place. After 2-3 weeks shoots should have developed. Now is the time to plant.
Please note: images have been removed from this pages because some of them may have been used without permission.