While January might be one of the least active times of the year for gardeners, there are still plenty of things you can be getting on with as the New Year dawns.
Although the soil outside will still be too cold for most direct sowing of fruit and veg, if you've got a heated propagator or a warm windowsill, there are some edibles that can be grown at this time of year.
If you're unsure what you can or can't grow in January, simply refer to the instructions on a seed packet for guidance.
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Many herbs can be grown all year round, so if you want to add some flavour to your cooking, there are plenty of options to choose from. Basil is an easy one to try, and combines really well with tomatoes, so grow from seed in a pot and keep it placed in a warm and sunny spot in your kitchen. Other herbs to grow in January include sage, parsley, chives and rosemary.
Spinach is incredibly easy to grow, and makes for a healthy and tasty addition to salads. Find a sunny windowsill, scatter a few seeds onto a tray and cover until the seeds germinate. When the soil gets a bit warmer outside, you can also direct sow spinach and other greens outdoors, but it's a good idea to protect young seedlings with netting, as they make a delicious treat for pigeons!
If you like your onions on the large side, January is a good time to think about sowing seeds, especially varieties such as Ailsa Craig or Bunton's Showstopper. If you've got a greenhouse or warm windowsill, this is the ideal place to start them off. If you don't have time to do this now, or if you aren't too concerned about growing onions of award-winning dimensions, you can wait a couple of months to plant out onion sets in the garden. One thing to bear in mind if you do plant out sets is that the birds often dig them up, so you might wish to net them until the roots get established.
If you want to enjoy home-grown strawberries this year (and who wouldn't?), you can start growing plants now for an early crop. You won't get much luck attempting to grow them directly in the soil in January, so grow them in a cold frame or under a protective cloche. This isn't the only time you'll need to protect your strawberries; once the fruits start to ripen they will need to be netted or grown within a fruit cage, otherwise the birds will get to the fruits before you can!
If you're itching to get outdoors to work the soil, there is one vegetable that you can consider sowing directly outside at this time of year, provided that the ground isn't frozen. This is the variety of broad bean called Aquadulce Claudia. Broad beans are very easy to grow, but you might want to net the plants as they start to push through the ground, before pigeons nibble at the tender leaves.
Growing fruit and veg in January not only allows you to enjoy gardening all year round, it also means you can start plants off early, so they become strong and well established as the growing season really kicks in.
To make sure your fledgling plants are supported and protected, take a look at the wide range of specialist netting and fruit cages available at Henry Cowls.