As someone who makes a lot of mistakes, I have to say I absolutely love a clean slate. I can literally drag myself to the end of the year yet emerge completely transformed once the calendar rolls around again and a new season begins. How can the passage of a few days make such a difference?
The fact that the last few days have been bright and sunny will also have helped. There is nothing better than a crisp Janaury day after weeks of gloomy rain. The garden looks better than you thought it did, there is a little warmth in the polytunnel and you are itching to get started.
I took the above picture yesterday of the garden still under wraps for the winter. The bulging mypex is covering recently added piles of seaweed (a bit late), I am hoping the heat absorbed by the black cover on a sunny day will help speed up the decomposition process. You can see my shadow to the left on the photo, one hand is holding the camera while the other is giving you a January wave. Not to be outdone, I notice a Brussels sprout is offering it’s own shadowy seasonal salute before it gives up it’s last sprout and is added to the compost heap.
This was interesting
Well, I thought it was. You can see the frost on the north flank of my vegetable beds remains while the sunny side of the bulge is clear (the photo was taken at midday). That is obvious really but the sunny side was also very warm to the touch with plenty of heat underneath helping the seaweed to rot down.
The interesting bit is, I was reading the other day (in Joy Larkcom Pollard’s ‘Grow Your Own Vegetables’ – Highly recommended) that it can be beneficial, especially in Northern gardens like mine, to angle beds towards the south to gain more heat from the sun. I think Joy said research had shown that an angle of 5 degrees was equivalent to the whole garden moving 30 miles south. My beds are arranged east-west anyway so if I were to build the north (frosty) side a little higher it would allow me to angle the soil surface towards the sun. I will try this on a couple of beds this year and see if there is any noticeable difference, I bet there is.
Calabrese in the polytunnel
Also taken yesterday, you can see above some broccoli calabrese in the polytunnel which is just starting to produce heads. This was planted very late in September as an experiment to see if I could get an early crop this year (I was expecting late February or March), I am very pleased to be looking at a harvest so soon. The heads are small (probably due to the soil being a little dry) but I will give them a liquid feed now which will encourage a second crop of small but very tasty new shoots once the main head has been harvested.
You may also remember I had planted some garlic in trays (it was November the 20th) in the tunnel to bring them ahead of those planted outside. You can see they are happily growing away and are already much further on than the outdoor beds. If you are growing indoors over winter you need to put the trays out of the tunnel in January (I usually put them out towards the end of the month) to expose them to cold until you plant them in March. While this method takes a bit more work than planting direct I find I get excellent garlic and now grow most of my bulbs this way, I would definitely recommend it for Northerly gardens with shorter seasons.
Garden Plan & Succession Sowing
This week I will be planning the vegetable garden to make sure I make best use of the available space. Good planning is not just about deciding what and where to plant at the beginning of the season, it should also include ‘follow on’ crops to fill empty spaces following a harvest. Apart from being efficient, succession sowing also ensures your garden soil is always covered (and therefore protected) and that there is less room for weeds to grow. It is also immensely satisfying.
I will publish my garden and polytunnel plans next week so you can see the choices I have made but I include a few common examples of follow on crops which I will be using below. You will have a wider range of choices if you sow in modules before space becomes available. For example, early potatoes are harvested in June/July and can be followed by direct sown beetroot or winter carrots. It will be a little late to sow leeks or winter cabbage at that stage but if sown in modules earlier (12 weeks earlier for leeks, 4-6 weeks for cabbage) you will have live plants ready and waiting to go in.
Some common follow on crops are as follows:
June/July – Early potatoes followed by direct sown beetroot or carrots seeds or by leek or cabbage seedling plants.
July/August – Summer beetroot followed by winter beetroot, carrots, spring cabbage or corn salad.
Sept/Oct – Winter beetroot or carrots followed by garlic or overwintering onions.
A succession plan significantly increases the yield from your outdoor garden but is even more effective in the polytunnel which has a longer growing season and should be productive for nearly 12 months of the year.
Anything to sow or plant?
January is really a month for planning and preparing, it is too early to sow or plant outdoors. Towards the end of the month I will be sowing early carrots and planting a small bed of early potatoes (which I am chitting now) in the polytunnel for an early harvest.
You can also plant strawberries in the tunnel provided they have been overwintering outside (they need to be exposed to cold or they won’t flower) to get an extra early crop from April onwards. I potted runners from tunnel grown plants last Autumn and have had them sitting outside since October, you can see them with a dusting of frost above.
Introducing Siobhán O’Farrell
This week I am introducing you to nutritional therapist Siobhán O’farrell who I will be adding to the Quickcrop blog for the next 6 weeks as she runs through some healthy eating basics. I was introduced to Siobhán over 20 years ago; I won’t go into the details but we ended up hitting it off, getting married and having 3 children (one of whom, unbelievably, is 21 this weekend!). Technically it was Siobhán who had the children but, again, we can forgo the details.
Siobhán not only transforms what I grow in the garden into delicious meals (I am no cook unfortunately) but she is also a dab hand at using food to avoid, manage or cure various ailments both at home and with her clients. I can testify that crushed garlic steeped in honey tastes revolting but it is surprisingly effective for a sore throat.
Siobhán informed me yesterday that she would start her series with weight loss (while looking at my stomach) as it is the most common issue ‘people’ have after Christmas. She will continue over the next 5 weeks with the following headings backed up with suggested meal plans and easy to follow recipes.
Week 6 – Good mood food
If any of the topics are relevant to you and you would like to learn more, Siobhán is available for online consultations and runs a number of online courses, she has a new 6 week weight loss programme starting next week I think but I will let her explain all that in the blog.
Sustainable Weight Loss
This week’s article is an introduction to sustainable weight loss where we look at why calories don’t count, how carbohydrates add weight and how a balance of protein and fats leaves you feeling full and satisfied. The article includes a recipe for Siobhan’s seeded nut bread (pictured above) which I am a huge fan of. To find out how to make this fabulous bread and to get rid of all that turkey and mince pies please click the blue button below.