If you’re anything like me, by January you’ll have had enough of being content with looking forward to sunnier days and will be longing to get outside and plant something. I dearly love the whole process of coaxing plants into life and it feels like an age since I last pushed a seed into some earth and willed it to grow. I think I have the gardening equivalent of itchy feet!
To satisfy my cravings I’ve been looking at what will actually tolerate being planted in January and go on to thrive. Here are some ideas for what to plant now.
This is perfect for that post-Christmas health kick. You will need to choose hardy varieties to ensure success outdoors at this time of year, and try to put them in a sheltered spot. The easiest way to get a variety of leaves is to buy a pack of mixed seeds from the garden centre or an online seed supplier. Look out for varieties labelled ‘cut and come again’ as these will give you the biggest quantities per plant; you just keep picking the leaves regularly to stop the plants flowering and make them produce new tasty leaves instead of running to seed. If the kids are helping you to plant this crop you might want to check out my guide to growing salad with kids.
Sweet peas are ideal for sowing now if you can keep them indoors in seed trays until they germinate (move them to a frost-free greenhouse or cold frame once this has happened). Sowing them now to plant out later will give you bigger plants than if you hang on until Spring, and they’re perfect for little hands too because the seeds are quite big and therefore easy to handle.
Now this is something I’ve never actually tried, because we only planted our own rhubarb at the allotment last year. You need to cover your rhubarb crown (the bit above ground) with a layer of straw, then put a large container over the whole thing – the aim is to block out the light and ‘force’ the stems to grow about a month earlier than under normal conditions. You can buy terracotta pots which are designed specifically for the job, but a large bucket will work perfectly well. With the promise of rhubarb crumble sooner than usual I’m definitely giving it a go!
This is a great one to do with the kids because it’s quick, simple and fun. You can plant garlic from November, but it never quite happened for us last year so I’m determined to get some in the ground now. Ideally you should buy garlic bulbs from the garden centre or a seed supplier as they will be certified virus-free and more likely to grow well, but I’m going a bit maverick on this one and planting bulbs that I’ve bought in the supermarket. It may or may not work, but it’s cheaper and I don’t have to wait for a delivery or make a special trip to the garden centre. I’ll keep you posted on progress!
To plant garlic, carefully break the bulb up into individual cloves and push into the soil about 10cm apart, with the pointy tip just below the surface. Each clove will produce a new bulb. Keep weeding around the bulbs as they grow and you’ll be harvesting them around June. If you’ve got a greenhouse or cold frame you can speed up growth by starting garlic in seed trays and planting out later.
I can’t wait to get started on all of this! Will you be doing some planting this January?