Jobs to do this month
January is probably the coldest winter month. It’s time to look over the allotment, clean up the plot, and dispose of all damaged and rotten crops.
The days are still too short and cold for sowing seeds outdoors, although you can sow a few onions, lettuces, peas, broad beans, radish and early carrots under protection towards the end of the month.
Make a new year’s resolution to start an allotment diary, if you don’t have one already. Note what you sow, and when. Which varieties perform well? Which crops do well, and which ones could do better?
This list isn’t exhaustive. You can get detailed advice from many organisations, especially those listed on this website under Useful sources of help and advice.
- If you’ve got a shredder at home, try shredding your Christmas tree to use as mulch. (Not all home shredders are powerful enough for this, though.)
- If you haven’t already done so, clean your tools, pots, trays, polytunnels and greenhouses ready for spring. Don’t forget the greenhouse gutters. Replace cracked panes of glass and repair any rips in the plastic. Check that your watering cans and buckets don’t leak, and that your wheelbarrow doesn’t have a flat tyre.
- Ventilate polytunnels and greenhouses on warmer days to prevent moulds getting established.
- Dig over any vacant plots that you’ve not dug already, provided the soil isn’t too wet, or frozen. If it is frozen, stack manure and compost close to where you’ll dig it in later on.
- Check on any fruit and vegetables in store, and remove any that are diseased or soft.
- Don’t prune stone fruits such as cherry and damson; you should summer-prune these. You can still prune apples, pears etc., though, while they’re dormant.
- Make a shelter for outdoor peaches and nectarines, to protect against peach leaf curl.
- You can plant bare-root trees and bushes until March.
- Early rhubarb varieties may already be shooting. If not, then there’s still time to divide established plants, while they’re dormant.
- You can plant soft fruit bushes towards the end of the month, when the weather allows and the soil has started to warm up. Spray all fruit trees and bushes with a winter wash on a fine day, but not when it’s frosty.
- If you potted up strawberry runners last year, you can plant them in your tunnel or greenhouse later in the month, for an extra early crop.
- If you have a grapevine in your greenhouse, now is the time to prune it. Cut back all shoots from last year, leaving small stubs with one or two buds on each. If you also remove the outer, loosest layer of bark, it’ll help reduce pests and fungal spores.
- You can take gooseberry cuttings, and put them somewhere sheltered. You should be able to pot them up by midsummer.
- Cut autumn-fruiting raspberries down to ground level if you’ve not dome it already.
Vegetables and salads
- Plan your vegetable crop rotations for the coming season, and order your seeds, seed potatoes, onion sets and garlic bulbs, if you haven’t done so yet.
- Overwintering vegetables may have suffered under the wet conditions. Leeks should be fine, though, but may be hard to lift from frozen ground. You can lift parsnips and swedes as you need them. Kale and winter cabbage should still be available, and Brussels sprouts may well go through to March.
- Draw soil up round the stalks of cabbages and winter cauliflowers. Use stakes to support Brussels sprouts and sprouting broccoli against high winds.
- Pack straw or fleece round celery to protect it from frost, but remove it on sunny days to let the plants breathe.
- Towards the end of January you can sow cabbages, chillies, coriander, chervil, dill, leeks, lettuce, mangetout peas, onions, spring onions and oriental salads in modular trays and put them in a propagator or on a warm, south-facing windowsill at home.