What to do in January
As the days start to lengthen, January is a month of planning and anticipation for the new season. It's too early to sow seeds outside, but you can continue experimenting with sprouts and micro greens on your indoor window sills - see December. You might be surprised by how much you can grow inside in a tiny space! If you're growing winter crops outside you should also get a few small (but fabulously tasty) harvests like the photo above.
Jobs for this month
- Start preparing for the new season.
- Get your seeds
- Plant apples, pears, plums, blackcurrants
- Harvest winter crops sparingly
1. Prepare for the new season
Start collecting together pots and other bits and pieces you'll need to grow. If you enjoy upcycling, keep an eye out on local skips - it's amazing what you can find. Now is the perfect time to build - or buy - constructions for your vertical allotment: shelves, ladders etc. Just a quick word of caution if you are new to all this. Be wary of investing in big construction projects until you know your space well. When I first started growing, I spent hours building a huge wooden container on my balcony - only to discover that I'd built it in the shadiest spot on the whole balcony! There's no rush to get everything prepared this month. Outdoor sowing and planting will not start in earnest until March or April. Enjoy the chance to potter and plan - and try to visualise your space full of all the plants you love!
2. Get your seeds
After sorting through your seeds from last year, you may decide to buy (or swap) some more. Most of us do! Try to buy seeds from a small independent supplier - ideally one who produces at least some of their own seeds (although this is hard to find these days) - or a heritage seed library. If you're looking for ideas on what to grow, you might want to check out ten of the best crops for containers
3. Plant apples, pears, plums, etc
Apple, raspberry, pears, plums and blackcurrants can be bought as bare rooted trees (ie not in pots) until the end of Winter (end of Feb in the UK). This is usually the best value way to buy them. You'll need big pots and patience to grow fruit trees successfully in containers (most take several years to fruit productively). But once established they can be productive - and attractive - for many years. Most fruits come in many different varieties - and, to make it more complicated, different rootstocks. It's important you get a variety and rootstock that will grow well in container and in the amount of sun it will get (have you observed your space to find out?). In my experience it's worth seeking out a specialist fruit nursery. You may pay a little more but you'll usually get a better quality plant, and reduce the risk of getting something unsuitable.
4. Harvest sparingly
As I mentioned in December, harvest your winter crops sparingly so that the plant can put on new growth when warmer weather comes.
What are you planning for your container garden this year? I'd love to hear in the comments below.