You are hereJanuary 2011
netting over beans and spring cabbage, 18 December
January is a quiet month, and how much needs doing depends on how you finished the autumn. Some harvests should still be possible because undug soil with a mulch of compost freezes less hard than dug soil.
We had 33 frosts between 24th November and 27th December, but still harvested some lovely parsnips in mid December and they are extremely sweet.
cloched endive surviving the cold, has been picked three times - these endive were picked three weeks earlier with some roots and soil, then kept indoors until needed
Also there were still plenty of salad leaves, right up until Christmas, a mixture of residual autumn growth in cloche and tunnel together with endive and radicchio plants that were lifted by early December and stored indoors in trays, with some soil on a small residue of roots to keep them alive. Then we took them apart for their best leaves to put in the salad mix when needed. I still have a few of these amazingly resilient plants to use in January; from a harvesting point of view they have been easier than outdoor leaves, which were frozen through most of December and afforded few picking opportunities. You can harvest frozen leaves but they risk breaking when being handled.
hare/rabbit and pigeon damage to Romanesco broccoli
The cold weather has caused new challenges, especially from the ravages of hungry wildlife. Even where I have netted vegetables, pigeons have been voraciously pecking leaves through the netting. Snow weighed some of the nets down to ground level, sitting on top of cabbages and red russian kale, but at least the pigeons could not then reach the leaves.
Salads such as endives, spinach and mustard have survived well under an outdoor cloche, and survival rates of salad plants in the polytunnels is really impressive, in spite of two nights when I recorded -12C inside a tunnel. The plants are not fleeced and ventilation is given at all times from both ends of the tunnels, because salad plants prefer being cold to being damp and stuffy.
This was confirmed again when I received a question from growers who had been losing plants where fleece was used and there was insufficient ventilation.
boxes of salad leaves in the greenhouse
January is perhaps the quietest month in a vegetable garden, but do take any opportunities to undertake some of the following, to help you be ready for busier times ahead.
composting Spread well rotted compost or manure on any bare soil as soon as possible, so that frost has time to soften the organic matter before spring
raking/forking of compost that was spread before Christmas. In any unfrozen and drier weather, use a rake or fork to knock around any larger lumps of manure and compost on the surface, creating a softer tilth for sowing and planting
de-clodding manure with a rake, after frost
Although it is possible for a few vegetables, there is actually little to gain from sowing seeds in January, unless you want competition winning onions and are able to give heat.
lambs lettuce under a posh cloche; the un-cloched ones survived too
Roots such as parsnip and swede can be lifted, leeks too; if birds and animals can be kept at bay, there may be kale, brussels sprouts, and cabbages such as savoys and January King. A few salad leaves should be possible undercover and some lambs lettuce outside