With the mild weather we’ve had this January, I should have been out in the garden, titivating the potager and beginning yet another reclamation project of areas that escaped me last year. But circumstances have made this impossible, though I do enjoy our outdoor space every day when letting out, feeding and shutting in the hens. Crocuses and snowdrops already in flower, hellebores of various types with lime-green or deep purple buds ready to open, and the modest shrubby winter honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima) releasing its delicious scent whenever I walk into the sheltered patch where it is growing.
Not too many weeds as yet in the potager beds; they’ll be quickly dealt with, and surprisingly, my policy of laissez-faire has meant I have had fresh rocket leaves all winter to add to sandwiches. And to think that this time last year the potager was but a sketch on paper and did not even exist. A mass of pernicious perennial weeds and tangled overgrown shrubs, and not the sheltered haven it has become. I’m still developing it, not just the four raised beds but the wild-life friendly side areas that enclose it: trees, shrubs and annual / perennial flowers, pots that hold bulbs and herbs, and wigwams to encourage climbers.
What better time of year as a gardener to begin afresh and create a mini-garden? Productive and decorative. My four raised beds are perfect, and I’ve acquired two more, to raise the height of two of them, so that I can grow a few early salad potatoes, and try parsnips and other root crops requiring a greater depth of soil than is possible at present. Time therefore to bring out my neglected potager diary and update it, create a new cropping plan – and order seeds and plants.
I had thought that the proximity of so many bird-feeders would have caused problems, but it hasn’t, and the sheltering shrubs provide protection from the sparrow-hawk. And If I’m quick, there’s just time, for you as well – today (Sunday Jan 29th) – to take part in the RSPB ‘Big Garden Birdwatch’. Just an hour is all you need, and you can download a record sheet here. Get the children involved.
Committed fruit-growers will be interested in advice given by the RHS regarding the effect that the mild winter has had on hardy fruit plants that need a period of chilling during winter in order to encourage flowering. Without this cold effect evidence from previous years shows that crops may be reduced. “We have already seen buds on the trees beginning to swell,” says Jim Arbury, RHS Fruit and Trials Specialist. He went on to say, “If gardeners have only one or two fruit bushes that have started filling their buds these can be covered with some horticultural fleece or an old curtain if it looks like there is going to be frost overnight.”
Click on any of the highlighted links within this blog to access Dobies online website (or direct to the RSBP for the bird record sheet).