“There are two seasonal diversions that can ease the bite of any winter.
One is the January thaw. The other is the seed catalogues.”
– Hal Borland
Christmas may be over, but we remain in the bleak mid-winter. Many gardens will be inaccessible due to mud, frost or snow and huge motivation would be needed to make even the keenest of gardener venture out. However, the days are getting longer and in just a few weeks the garden will be opening her arms to you again. In the meantime, prepare for the year ahead by getting the lawnmower serviced, the secateurs sharpened, and the pots and seed trays all washed and neatly stacked.
The start of a new year is always exciting. Who doesn’t enjoy spotting the first snowdrops and marvelling at spider’s webs jewelled by frost? This is a time for new starts, for planning and for preparation.
Have you made any gardening related resolutions? Perhaps to plant more perennials and reduce the number of annuals? Or to save money and grow more plants from seed? Or maybe just a spend a minimum of 30 minutes doing something in the garden each day? Certainly if, like many of us, you made a resolution to lose some weight and get fitter, then working out in the garden will help!
Our top ten recommended tasks this month include:
- Save empty egg boxes as they are perfect for chitting potatoes. Place a seed potato in each segment of the box with the sprouting end facing up. Keep in a cool, light place until February, by which time stubby green shoots will have grown meaning its time for planting.
- Check tree and shrub stakes and make sure that any ties are secure but not causing damage by rubbing.
- January can be the coldest of months so keep some fleece at hand to protect any plants that were simply to big to move under cover.
- Check any stored dahlia and begonia tubers. Use a sharp knife to carefully cut away any signs of rot. If the tubers look shrivelled plunge them in a bucket of tepid water overnight, then dry thoroughly.
- Firm in any plants that have been lifted by frost.
- Houseplants will want to be kept cool and free from draft. Water sparingly.
- Keep on top of perennial weeds now and your life will be far easier come summer.
- Pot on autumn sown sweet peas and place on a sunny window sill. If you didn’t start any then no problem, sweet peas seeds can be sown this month.
- On those rare sunny days open cold frames and greenhouse windows. This will help to keep the plants tough enough to handle those very cold days still to come. Just remember to close them again before dark!
- Take advice from the author and naturalist Hal Borland (see quote above) and settle down with your Suttons seed catalogue. Now is the ideal time to plan your 2019 garden and to place your order.
The first wildflower of the year and the fist sign of spring, snowdrops are always a welcome sight. It’s amazing how such tiny buds have the strength to force their way up through frozen soil yet somehow, they manage.
There are more than 400 varieties of snowdrop, some with fabulous names such as Grumpy, Great Tear and Three Ships Come Sailing, the latter flowering just before Christmas.
A wonderful kickstart to the new year is to wrap up warm and go on one of the many snowdrop walks advertised around the country. Visit the National Trust website to find a snowdrop hot-spot near you.
The first Suttons plant catalogue will be landing on your doormat early this month. Packed with old favourites but also some new and exciting additions, exclusive to Suttons, we’re confident that Suttons 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.
Whether you like fruity, mild chillies or ones that pack a long lasting taste-punch, now is the time to start sowing. Chillies need a long growing period before they will flower and are slow to germinate so its best to start at least one batch off this month. A January sowing will result in nice strong plants by midsummer with flowers starting to form. Flowers that will of course develop into fruits.
Fill a clean seed tray with moist compost and then sprinkle in your seeds and cover with compost or vermiculite. Chillies need a constant temperature of around 25°C to germinate and even then, germination can take 2 to 3 weeks. Allow them to grow on for another 6 to 8 weeks by which time they just about be large enough to prick out into 7cm pots.
Chillies contain a chemical compound called capsaicin which is an irritant and causes that well-known burning sensation. Capsaicin is used as pepper spray for personal defence and sometimes for riot control, so it really is pretty powerful stuff.
Back in 1912 an American pharmacist, Wilbur Scoville, developed a way of measuring the level of capsaicin in different varieties of chilli pepper, the Scoville Scale. The number of Scoville heat units (SHU) is related to the level of capsaicin in each variety of chilli. Other more sophisticated measures have since been introduced but the Scoville Scale remains one of the best known indicators as to the heat of chilli peppers. To protect your taste buds all Suttons chilli pepper seeds display their Scoville Heat Units (SHU). The higher the hotter!
An attractive, highly decorative chilli plant that produces striped fruits of a medium heat is the new and exclusive to Suttons, Chilli Hot Rod. With variegated foliage and fruit with “go faster” stripes ripening from green/white to orange/brown, it must be worth a try!
New Year’s Resolution?
Are you determined that this is the year when you will lose those extra pounds and/or increase your level of fitness? Then what better way than through gardening! Raking fallen leaves and weeds for 30 minutes or digging the veg plot requires as much energy as going for a 2km run. Even pruning and tidying plants is as good for you as walking. Three hours of gardening is as effective as one hour’s intensive work out in the gym.
Not only has gardening been proven to help us physically it is also a great stress reliever and good for all round mental health.
So, never feel guilty about all those hours spent in the garden. Its cheaper than gym membership and has similar benefits!
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:
Red Duke of York– This heritage variety is one of the few red-skinned, cream-fleshed earlies. It has a fine flavour and gets quite big. First Early.
Maris Piper – A reliable general purpose choice producing tubers that show good resistance to eelworm and are a national favourite. Maincrop variety.
Charlotte – A latish first early, producing good crops of medium sized oval tubers that are waxy when young and perfect hot or cold. Good blight and scab resistance. Colour – pale yellow. Shape – long oval. New, boil, steam or saute. Salad Type.
Maris Peer – A national favourite with firm texture; high numbers. A familiar second early producing a large crop of round, small/medium, white-fleshed tubers that are waxy and tasty. Second Early.
King Edward – This old traditional English favourite crops are more modest than some but it’s well worth growing. Maincrop variety.