It is winter, it is cold, and much of the UK is still in lockdown. So here are some bright ideas to keep you motivated in your organic growing. Whether you have a balcony, an allotment or a back garden, we’ve got advice to help you get ready for those first heady days of spring as well as lift your lockdown heart.
Ready set sow!
Did you know you can start sowing aubergines? This slow-growing veg is excellent to begin sowing now, in your fresh peat-free potting compost. Remember to sow indoors as it is too cold for the seeds to germinate in the UK winter months. Also, why not spice things up by sowing some chillies as well?
More veg to add to the mix includes beans, beetroot and salad leaves. Don't forget to sow some flower seeds, to get those essential blooms for bees and other pollinators. Try the brilliant yellow Limnanthes (poached egg plant) and beautiful blue Phacelia. By starting them this month, they will be ready to plant out once the frosts have passed.
Your tools are your friends
A good gardening tool is like a good friend. Look after them, and they will stay with you for years. Use this quiet, domestic time to clean, mend and sharpen. Sorting out the shed or the tool bag is a satisfying, gentle routine. Why not listen to The Organic Gardening Podcast while you’re at it!
Patio and greenhouse pots also need love and attention. Clean them out (put the old potting compost on the compost heap, it will no longer have any nutrient value) and then wash in hot soapy water. Now you’re ready for that first spring plant out!
No, not box set sofa surfing…
There are a few jobs you can do to keep you and your veg patch active:
- Remove any diseased, damaged or old leaves from leafy crops such as chard. It is incredible how quickly it can perk up a plant that is looking past it, and it allows more airflow around the leaves, so there’s less chance of diseases in these damp conditions.
- Some early varieties of purple sprouting broccoli will be ready soon. With milder winters, things are often ready to harvest at different times from the promises on the seed packet. Get ready to get picking.
- You may be in time to plant out garlic to get a summer crop - please make sure the soil is frost-free.
- Are your seed potatoes chitting? They need to be in a light, dry space (indoors) to chit (grow shoots). We suggest putting them in an empty egg box to protect the shoots. And yes, you can use supermarket potatoes, but you may have problems later on if they are not blight resistant varieties. You don’t need a garden for a crop of tatties. They can be grown on the balcony or patio in deep pots - or even a large bag for life with drainage holes.
Getting wet with a purpose
February also marks the World Wetlands Day. Use your lockdown creativity to create your own little bog garden or pond. It really doesn’t have to be large, sometimes even just a submerged washing up bowl can attract aquatic wildlife. Water boatmen, frogs, dragonflies, even newts will find their way and keep you entertained all summer. See here on how to create the perfect garden pond.
And finally, remember the birds
Watching the birds and hearing their song lifts many a lockdown heart. They are busy at the moment keeping warm, building nests and hunting food. They too suffer from cold. Please make sure your bird feeders are cleaned regularly to prevent diseases. and remember to keep fresh water available, and break the ice if necessary.