It may be the darkest, chilliest, snowiest and downright gloomiest month of the year, but we gardeners have a trick up our sleeves when it comes to chasing away those winter blues. January is the month in which we can lay the foundations for those glorious sunny days ahead. January is the month when we can start to plant!
Planting these little time capsules of new life is one of the most satisfying things we do as gardeners. Wishing each little seed well, and crossing our fingers for a high germination rate and lots of strong seedlings. Cleaning the soil from under our fingernails – just like in summer! - and feeling that warmer days are just around the corner.
So which plants benefit from being sown in this very earliest part of the year?
- When it comes to flowers, sweet peas, delphiniums, Iceland poppies, dianthus, zinnias and pelargoniums all do well with an early start, ready to hit the ground running when warmer days come around again.
- In terms of edibles, January-planted strawberries, basil, leeks, broad beans, onions, cabbage and cauliflowers will all be giving tasty early crops when your neighbours’ plants are just peeking through the soil. Also, tropical plants like chillies and aubergines benefit from getting in the ground early, or they may not have a long enough season to ripen properly.
Happily, we have everything you need to get your seedlings off to a flying start. Most of what you need, you’ll find in our Essential Tools collection. Every seed likes a comfy bed, so there’s a choice of tampers suitable for different size pots, as well as one specially sized for cell trays. There’s a dibblet that’s depth-marked, so each seed is at the perfect depth, and a set of two adorably tiny cell tray trowels, the very thing for transplanting seedlings when they need potting on.
And speaking of potting on, if you’re keen to try to reduce your use of plastic in the garden this year, have you seen our paper pot maker? It’s a way to make an everlasting supply of pots from old newspapers – the ultimate in recycling! When your seedlings are ready to be planted out, there’s no need to remove the biodegradable newspaper; simply take your young plant in its pot and pop it in the ground. The plant will easily grow through the paper, which will rot down in the soil.
Just one word of warning, though, about early planting. Too much heat too early can cause leggy, weak seedlings, which won’t do well when grown on. Slow but steady is the watchword. And sowing under glass can make your precious new plants susceptible to damping off. This is a fungal disease which is a particular problem for seedlings grown indoors or under glass. To minimise the risk, hygiene is important. Keep pots and trays clean, use new compost, and make sure there’s good ventilation. If you’d like to find out more, the RHS gives good advice on how to avoid damping off.
So now it’s just a case of deciding what fabulous flowers or voluptuous veg you fancy growing this year, rolling up your sleeves, and getting started. Let’s get growing!