What to do in the garden in January

So here we are once again at the start of another year in the garden and on the allotment.  Christmas indulgence and relaxation all over for another year, New Year’s resolutions made – and some already broken – and raring to get going whatever the weather.

It may be winter, but there is no better time to start looking forward to the year in the garden – deciding what to grow, reflecting on the past season’s successes and, perhaps, an occasional failure.  The spring edition of our seed, plant and bulb catalogue has been published, full of fascinating new varieties and a wealth of trusted favourites to get you in the mood for gardening in 2015.  We hope you will make a New Year’s resolution to grow one or two varieties which you have not grown before.

Many gardeners traditionally spend the time between Christmas and New Year browsing our seed catalogue or looking through our selection online, dreaming about the frost-free spring and summer of unbroken sunshine, with rain falling only in the hours of darkness from May to October, that is sure to be in store for us all again this year.  Well, we did say ‘dreaming’, but now back to reality.  Of course we would say this, but it really does pay to place your seed order as soon as possible this month, as some varieties inevitably sell out quickly.  If you want certain varieties or like the sound of new ones in our listing, it pays to order now.

Whatever you grow in your garden in 2015, may we wish you a successful season of beautiful flowers and delicious fruit and vegetables.

Jobs in the flower garden in January

Sweet Pea selectionIf you made an autumn sowing of sweet pea seed, it is time to pinch back the shoots of the seedlings to just two or three pairs of leaves.  This will encourage more compact, bushy growth and prevent your plants getting too tall too quickly.

If you did not sow in autumn, make up for lost time by making a sowing during January.  Start the seeds off in a little warmth and when seedlings have emerged they can be transferred to an unheated greenhouse, where they will benefit form a some fleece protection when frosty nights threaten.

Remember there is an even bigger incentive to grow these beautiful annuals in 2015.  We shall be running our third annual national sweet pea competition again at Capel Manor College, north London, on Saturday, 18 July.   It is open solely to ‘ordinary’ gardeners, plus classes for schools and individual youngsters, and with the date a fortnight later than in earlier years, there is no reason not to enter.  There are big money prizes up for grabs, so growing sweet peas can be rewarding in more ways than one!  If you cannot make it to Capel Manor, we have devised a sure-fire method of making sure blooms reach us safely by post – all it takes is a two-litre soft drink bottle!  Full details of how to do it are on our website.

If you intend using your greenhouse for producing a range of half-hardy bedding plants this spring for your summer display, now is the ideal time to wash the panes to maximise sunlight, and to give the inside and the outside a good wash-down with a solution of Jeyes Fluid or similar to ensure it is clean and disease-free for the season ahead.  It may be a cold job, but think how virtuous you will feel when the work is done!

Zinnia Lilac roseMay we draw your attention to some of the new half-hardy annuals we have launched for 2015 and which we feel are well worth consideration?

Zinnia Lilac Rose pictured to the left here is an exclusive introduction, which will look really good in beds and patio containers.  Its beautifully coloured blooms are very long-lasting.

Look out too for our brand new zinnias Zinderella Lilac and Zinderella Peach.  These have very unusual, double, scabious-like flowers which will make a real conversation piece in your garden.  We are sure your visitors will admire them, but will have to ask you what they are!

Gazania New Day Rose Stripe F1Other brand new flowers for this year include the large flowered aster Balloon Mixed (expect blooms up to 6in across!), Gazania New Day Rose Stripe F1, the white background and rich stripe of which present a stunning contrast in beds, borders and terrace pots – this one is a real head-turner.  Order seed of all these now ready for sowing from February onwards.

Cornus (dogwood) can be planted this month to provide you with dramatically coloured stems in winters to come.  They really seem to set the garden alight at the darkest time of year, and require very little maintenance to ensure a good display for several years.  If you appreciate some winter fragrance to cheer up the garden, look out for Chimonanthus praecox (wintersweet), Viburnum x bodnantense or winter-flowering Lonicera (honeysuckle).

Privet is still favourite for hedging, but do not forget deciduous native subjects such as hornbeam, hawthorn, beech and blackthorn if you prefer a more natural look and one which will be appreciated by an abundance of wildlife all through the year.  All these can be planted during January when soil conditions allow.


Jobs in the vegetable garden in January

Burpees Short & SweetWe often say it at this time of year, but if you have not completed your winter digging of the vegetable plot, aim to have it complete by the end of the month, so frosts and rain can work on it in the weeks ahead to break down clods.  By the middle of March it should be ready to be prepared for the first sowings of the spring – often parsnip, beetroot, peas and carrots.

On the subject of carrots, we have two new varieties – one exclusive and one brand new – for you to try in 2015.  Burpees Short & Sweet (pictured left here) is to exclusive to Mr Fothergill’s.  Bred with heavy or poor soils in mind, this short-rooted type is also good for growing in containers.  Sweet, crisp and high in sugars, we strongly recommend Short & Sweet.  By the way, the name ‘Burpees’ refers to its breeder, not to any side-effects it may have!

Red Samurai F1Also brand new is our red-skinned Red Samurai F1, which has long, tapering roots.  Inside the flesh is pink and it holds its colour well when cooked.

Seed of slower growing greenhouse crops such as aubergine and peppers, both sweet and hot types, can be sown during January.  Sow seed in either a heated propagator or a warm kitchen windowsill.  Emergence can often be rapid in a propagator, so take a daily look and reduce the heat as seedlings start to show, as this will help to prevent them becoming drawn up and ‘leggy’.  There are scores of pepper (capsicum) varieties from which to choose, but we believe we offer one of the finest and carefully selected ranges.

Tomato 'Orange Slice'January is not too soon to make a sowing of tomato seed, but only if you are intending to grow the plants to maturity in a greenhouse.  The seed of plants destined to be grown outdoors should not be sown until March at the earliest.  Our exclusive new beefsteak variety Orange Slice F1 can be grown either indoors or outdoors.  Its fleshy fruits can weigh 8oz each and they have a superb flavour.  If you love ‘beef’ tomatoes, we are sure you will enjoy Orange Slice F1

If you enjoy Brussels sprouts after Christmas rather than before, our brand new Braemar F1 is for you.  The rather tall plants produce their crop of medium-sized, bright green buttons from January onwards, often lasting until early April.  The solid sprouts hold well on the stem and have a great flavour.

Braemar f1 brussels We often wonder why the Brussels sprout is such a maligned vegetable.  In our book, it is up there with the best of them.  True we would not want them cooked until they are grey and sloppy, and nor do we care for them too al dente, but boiled or steamed just right and nothing beats them – and we do not need chestnuts, pancetta or flaked almonds added to make them more palatable!  Seed of Braemar F1 can be sown from February onwards.

You will also see we are offering a small range of vegetable seed of varieties chosen with the exhibitor in mind.   Time and time again the winning exhibits at horticultural shows come from a small group of tried and trusted varieties, which give growers a head start.  So if you fancy having some fun by growing a few varieties with the local summer or autumn show in mind, take a look at our range.  Not only will the varieties look good on the showbench they are also great in the kitchen, so even if you do not win prizes you will still have a delicious crop to enjoy!


Jobs in the fruit garden in January

strawberry long seasonIt is hard to believe that such a sweet taste of summer is best planted out in the depths of winter, and so January is a good time to establish or renew a strawberry bed.  When planning a strawberry bed try to incorporate a few varieties that will crop across the whole season to give you that most precious of crops for most of the summer.

If you are establishing a bed for the first time, then try our Strawberry Long Season Collection with a mix of varieties to keep your kitchen supplied long term – the varieties included are Mae which is an extra-early cropping from early June; Elegance for picking from late-June to late July; and Malwina which will provide fruit until August.

If you already have a bed that produces fruits, but that has gaps, then plant according to the part of the season where you are not getting fruit.

Early season:

  • Strawberry Romina is newly introduced for 2015 and is a June bearer with a sweet, high sugar content flavour.
  • Strawberry Christine has good disease resistance and produces fruits from early June

strawberry mara de boisMain Season:

Late season/Everbearing varieties:

If you do not have a garden in which to plant strawberries, they will also crop well in window boxes, hanging baskets and other containers – so just about anyone can grow their own home-produced strawberries this summer.


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