December 21, 2018
Winter is well and truly upon us with January often being one of the coldest months. Snow, frost, wind, rain, mud and grey skies seem here to stay but never fear, snowdrops and celandines will soon be putting on their annual show. Yes, the days are lengthening, but oh so very slowly.
The weather this month is likely to make the garden mostly out of bound. So, enjoy this rare downtime and start planning. Dust off those gardening books and browse through your Dobies catalogue. Our range is too big to fit in any one catalogue, but you’ll find everything on our website at www.dobies.co.uk
Make the most of any decent weather days by tackling some of the following tasks:
- Chillies are slow to germinate and need a long growing period so it’s a good idea to sow a batch in January. They can take 2-3 weeks to germinate and another 3-4 before being large enough to prick out. So, patience is needed but the results will be worth it!
- Autumn planted onions will welcome a high potash feed this month. Dobies seaweed-based fertilisers are just the job for onions and for many other crops.
- Hellebore flowers will be emerging so give them a helping hand by cutting away any large, old leaves.
- If you fancy the tender sweet shots of forced rhubarb, then now is the time to cover the crown. If you don’t have one of those splendid terracotta forcing pots then no matter, a large upturned bucket will do the job. Once you’ve cropped the first shoots give the rhubarb crown a nitrogen-based feed to help it recover.
- Continue planting bare root trees and shrubs. If the ground is frozen then heel them in or plant temporarily in a pot until the ground thaws. Once planted, remember to water often.
- Tidy up the shed, sweep shelves and wash pots and seed trays. It’ll be time for spring sowing before you know it! Now is also the time to check through your seed tin and order anything missing.
- To prevent disease, remove all fallen leaves from beneath roses.
- Prune apple and pear trees, removing any criss-cross branch and dead wood.
This month we continue to harvest sprouts, cabbage, kale and leeks. A British-bred variety of leek, perfect for a cold winter, is Leek Below Zero F1. Aptly named, this leek is recommended by Dobies for its ability to produce beautifully white shanks with deep green leaves, able to withstand the worst of a British winter and still taste delicious.
Leeks are rarely the star in a dish but are an important and tasty addition to many. When young leeks can be eaten raw but in winter, they are best cooked. Leeks can be used to replace onions in any dish and can be steamed, braised, fried, simmered or griddled.
Leek soup is more delicate than onion soup but just as tasty. Or fry your leeks in butter and mix with cream, chopped parsley and grated lemon zest for an easy pasta sauce.
Other flavours that work well with leeks include:
Cheese Yoghurt Cream White Fish Mussels
White wine Parsley Mint Peas Eggs
Lentils Lamb Chickpeas Lemon Ginger
Your Christmas tree may only just have been shredded but the time has arrived to start planning your summer garden. The first Dobies plant catalogue will be landing on your doormat early this month. Packed with old favourites but also some exciting additions we’re confident that Dobies can supply all you need. Order early and you’ll get what you want. Order late and we may have sold out.
Click here to view our interactive online catalogue.
Feed the Birds
Encourage birds to your garden and they’ll both entertain and help with pest control in the months ahead. Aphids, caterpillars, slugs and snails all feature on the menu for our garden birds, but at this time of year they need our help.
The wider the variety of food you put out then the wider variety of birds will visit your garden. Robins love mealworms, fresh or dried, and tits and finches will relish sunflower hearts. Dried fruit will be welcomed by blackbirds and windfall apples will keep the thrushes going. Woodpeckers and nuthatches love peanuts and they all need a good supply of fresh water.
Bird food can go off so it’s best to put out small amounts and refill regularly. Keep the food fresh in sealed containers and away from any possible rodent reach. Dirty feeders can lead to disease so take them down from time to time and give them a scrub with weak disinfectant, followed by a thorough rinse.
Feeders need to be far enough away from cover so that cats can’t lurk and pounce but close enough for the birds to seek shelter should a sparrow hawk pay a visit.
Winter, when other food is scarce, is the most important time to feed garden birds but the RSPB does recommend all-year-round feeding. Sitting on eggs, raising youngsters and then moulting is tough and help is always appreciated!
The RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch takes place at the end of the month and registration is now open here
To Chit or not to Chit? That is the Question
When it comes to first and second earlies then the answer is to chit as this will result in an earlier, bigger crop.
Seed potatoes have a blunt end, called the rose end, with eyes (buds) from which the chits (sprouts) will form. Place the potatoes singly in clean seed trays or, better still, in old egg boxes, with the rose end pointing up. Then leave them in a light, cool but frost-free place and wait for the sprouts to appear. If they are kept too warm or not in enough light, then the potatoes will produce long white shoots which are no good. Ideally the sprouts should be about 2.5cm long, knobbly and green.
When planting time arrives do take care not to accidentally knock off those chits. Its easily done!
Plant of the Month
The only way to savour the superb tastes and textures of potatoes is when you dig, prepare and cook them yourself; all in the space of a few hours. In order to do this, you need to grow your own!
Which is why we’ve put together a collection of 5 of the easiest to grow and most popular varieties that will give you a continuous crop of fresh potatoes all season. This exclusive collection contains 1kg of each of the following varieties:
Desiree – A firm favourite especially with Delia! It can become very large and slightly mis-shapen, but is nevertheless very versatile.Colour. Maincrop variety.
King Edwards – This old traditional English crops are more modest than some but it’s well worth growing. Long growing season. Maincrop variety.
International Kidney – A very popular second early/early maincrop seed potato variety. Salad Type.
Maris Peer – A reliable and well known favourite yielding mellow-tasting round white tubers. Eat them warm or save and use in salads as they will not discolour after cooking. Resistant to scab which can be a problem in dry, late summer soils. Second Early.
Pentland Javelin – A popular early variety that is favoured for its tasty, white, waxy-fleshed tubers that do not discolour when cold. First Early.