Are you looking to build a cold weather garden in your urban dwelling?
For many of us, January brings the lowest temperatures of the year, as well as wind, rain frost and snow. Harsh weather sends us – and our gardens – into dormancy and hibernation, but… there’s still plenty of jobs to keep green fingers active.
So how do we create a cold weather garden? Here are some tips.
At the beginning of each year we’re usually full of new ideas and desperate to start sowing. It’s important not to rush by planting vegetables such as tomatoes and cucumbers before the risk of frost occurs, but many other things can start now. Salad leaves, broad beans, onions and peas can be in trays or modules at this time of year, but it’s crucial that they’re in a shelter spot or undercover. Summer brassicas, like cabbage and cauliflower, are best for planting now, but will do best in a greenhouse or conservatory until temperatures rise outdoors.
2. Attend to fruit bushes
Many fruit bushes need trimming a few times per year, but winter is the best opportunity for a harder prune as you have better sight of the tree branches without leaves. For currents and gooseberries, prune back the new growth to keep a compact shape, also thinning out some older wood if the bush is getting too big. Check apple trees for signs of flaky canker and prune out where possible. If fruit trees grow in pots you may wish to raise the containers off the ground to aid drainage and avoid compost waterlogging.
3. Clear out and prepare
Cold spells are a good opportunity to clear out sheds and greenhouses, washing down pots, containers and seed trays ready for use in warmer months. Use this time to sort through old seeds and throw out broken tools, allowing more space for working and new equipment. Outside areas that are not frosty or waterlogged can also be ready for planting. Just be careful not to leave existing plants exposed by removing protective layers of leaves, as they provide vital insulation during extreme weather.
4. Harvest remaining crops
Although the majority of harvesting happens after warmer months, it’s likely that some vegetables are still in the ground. Over-winter varieties of radishes, salad leaves, cabbages and cauliflower are for use now if they are surviving the frost. Kale and hardy varieties of broccoli can flourish over winter producing good harvests until the spring, and it’s a good time to lift parsnips as they taste even sweeter after exposure to frost.
5. Sort seeds, make notes
Excitement will be sparked as seed catalogues arrive and new varieties go on sale. Take time to plan what you’d like to grow and how it will complement other plants and features in the garden. It’s always good to experiment and try different flowers and vegetables, but make sure you’ve got sufficient beds or containers to accommodate the new growth. It’s a good idea to make notes on what you’re growing and details of seed selections. A diary helps gardeners keep track of successful methods and varieties, as well as providing inspiration for future seasons.
I'm a young professional living in the city, growing things in a small urban garden and encouraging others to do the same. Enjoying green space and eating home-grown veg boosts health and wellbeing, providing a connection to nature and much needed respite from stressful corporate life. I provide busy people with easy and enjoyable ways to get their green fix!
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