Author: Patrick Wiltshire
Is this the year for you to start living the Good Life? You don’t have to go as extreme as the sitcom-renowned Tom and Barbara in their Surbiton home but there are some aspects you can take on board. I, for one, am going to embark on a bit of home-growing this year and practice what I preach.
So what’s on the cards for January?
This is the month for clearing and preparing. When the sun is shining, weak though it is at this time of year, opportunity knocks and it’s time to clear your patch of any rotten vegetables, weeds and debris. Wrap up, boots on and arm yourself with hoe, fork and rake to fish out any surface weeds.
At the end of the day reward yourself with a hot drink and order a range of potatoes, plants and seeds from a reputable catalogue like Marshalls.
Can you sow anything now?
If you’re really keen on sowing now you can sow radishes, broad beans, lettuce and beans at a push. They need to be sown in mild areas only though (I wouldn’t be able to get away with growing them on an exposed allotment in the Fens) and under cover – by that I mean under protective cloches, coldframes, polytunnels or unheated greenhouses.
I know what it’s like when you’re chomping at the bit to get green-fingered. It pays to be patient however and start the allotment year in earnest in February when the light improves and you can sow lots of crops indoors.
Rather than sowing now I’m planning on what to put in my vegetable patch.
I want a balance of the four main crop types; this will give me good returns, improve the soil structure of my vegetable plot and give me the biggest larder for the kitchen. Therefore I want soil-improving root vegetables like potatoes, onion and garlics, nitrogen-adding legumes like peas, weed-suppressing leafy squashes or courgettes (the cucurbits) and finally immune-boosting brassicas like cauliflowers and cabbage.
So what varieties are going to really stoke my passion for home-growing?
Potatoes that give guaranteed results – New disease-resistant collection
I already know the talk, but this year I’m walking the walk and growing my own spuds. Mainly to keep my shopping bills down but also to get closer to the earth. I want to grow potatoes that won’t succumb to diseases so I can look forward to a good harvest even if we have a wet summer.
Legumes that illuminate – Runner bean Stardust
Whenever I pass a front garden with runner beans I’m unashamed to admit a touch of envy creeps in on account of the gardener’s green-fingers. That’s because runners are pretty as well as productive. I’m trying my hand at the runner bean and French bean cross Stardust that will give me yummy stringless beans plus fairy light-like flowers as an added bonus.
Cucurbits – The natural no-effort hoe
One of the highlights of growing your own cucurbits (see right) is the naturally dense leaf cover this put on as they grow. These leaves are attractive but their greatest asset is their ability to keep weeds down. Weeds are a year-long bane to the home-grower so any natural weed suppressor is welcome on my plot. I’m going for courgette Lemona- a pretty yellow courgette with few spines.
Brassicas – Steeling my immune system
I’m a big fan of red cabbage and I reminisce of the jars of pickled red cabbage my granddad used to bring round every Sunday. Purples and reds are all the rage in the gardening world at the moment and purple vegetables are no exception, as I saw them feature heavily at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show last year. Red cabbage Ruby Perfection is both attractive and great at keeping health and well-being at a high.
So it’s these on my order list. Watch this space to see me growing the above within the next 12 months.