How to chase the January gardening blues away

It’s raining – again! I know I shouldn’t complain, especially after the hot dry summer we had last year, but there are jobs in the garden that are starting to get a bit desperate (I’ve still got spring bulbs to plant!) and I can’t get near them without creating a big muddy mess.

Rainy day in January
Stuck inside on another wet and windy day

So, what can we do on the days when the weather completely stops us from stepping outside? For me, it’s all about the dreaming and planning – places to go, people to see, and how I would like this year’s garden to look.

‘Wish list’ plants

If you’re a plantaholic like me, you’ve probably got a long list of botanical beauties you would like to introduce to your garden. My wish list has a tendency to grow a little longer each time a plant catalogue drops through the door and after every episode of Gardener’s World! But I’ve also got to be realistic – there’s only so much room out there, so if I’m going to buy something new I need to know where I’m going to put it.

Packed garden borders
There’s always room for one more plant, right? Erm, maybe.

Top of my wish list for a while now has been a crab apple tree. They are often cited as ideal compact trees for small gardens, providing year-round interest with their colourful blossom, fruits and foliage. Nevertheless, I haven’t had the space…until now. At the end of last year we removed a large conifer hedge from one side of the garden, which may have opened up a potential spot.

It means I can now start researching crab apples again. There’s a terrific review on Gardens Illustrated of the best crab apple trees for colour and form by plant expert Graham Rice. I’ll let you know if I manage to squeeze one in!

Sowing and growing

Wet and windy days provide a great opportunity for sorting through those seed packets and working out what you’re going to grow this year. Make a plan of what you would like to grow from seed, what month you need to sow it, and where you are going to grow it. There’s oodles of advice online to help with this.

Organized seed packets
Check what seeds you’ve already got before buying more

I always tend to get sidetracked with my herbaceous borders, but I’m hoping to try to focus more on the vegetable plot this year and widen my veg-growing horizons beyond tomatoes, courgettes and potatoes. Watch this space!

Places to visit

Some of the best inspiration comes from visiting other gardens. Last year, I visited two gardens in West Sussex: Nymans and the Sussex Prairie Garden. It was a fabulous day out, and the awesome summer borders in both gardens gave me lots of ideas for planting combinations.

So, while I’m stuck indoors I’m making a list of gardens close to home to nurture my botanical soul in 2023. I’ve already found a few gems that I wasn’t previously aware of. Check out the Great British Gardens website for some inspiration near you!

Adapting plans from lessons learned

It’s all very well making plans for the rest of the year, but it’s also good to reflect on what did and didn’t work last year. Given the incredibly dry summer we had, I am seriously considering not planting hanging baskets this year. They needed constant watering, which was unfair on my kind neighbour when I was away.

I am also considering swapping growbags for larger pots to grow my tomatoes in this year. Growbags have worked wonderfully up to now, but they often needed watering twice a day through July and August last summer, and if hot summers become a trend then that’s not sustainable.

Keep dreaming

Whatever you are dreaming of, or planning for, this year, enjoy the process. I’ve just noticed the rain has stopped…so I’m heading out into the garden to see what I can tick off my January checklist.

Seed buying: a gardener’s addiction

Have you ever been to your local garden centre with one (or two) purchases in mind and come away with a trolley full of goodies? Of course you have. You’re a gardener and you love all things gardening related, especially the joy of introducing new plants to your garden. Let’s face it, most of us are self-confessed plantaholics.

Room for one more plant
There’s always room for one more plant…somewhere!

But I honestly thought, given the time of year, I would be able to restrain myself last weekend when I popped in to my local garden centre for a few seed potatoes and some ‘top-up’ packets of veg seed.

I had been through my seeds and was delighted to find that most of them were still in date for this year. I made a list of essential replacements, which comprised 6 packets of seeds: aubergines, cucumbers, mixed lettuce leaves, cabbages, radishes and Busy Lizzies. And I fully intended to stick to the list.

Organized seed packets
My simple seed filing system: flowers in one tray, veg in the other

You would think after more than 50 years I would know myself a little better!

So many options

Presented with row after row of colourful, enticing seed packets, all restraint went out the window.

It started slowly. I bought my usual outdoor slicing variety of cucumber, but what’s that? A long variety of cucumber that can be grown outside as well? Ooh, I need to give that a go!

Two outdoor varieties of cucumber
Two outdoor varieties of cucumber

But then it started to gather momentum. Why buy one packet of mixed lettuce leaves, when there are several varieties to try?!

I already had courgette seeds and three varieties of tomato back at home, but wouldn’t it be nice to grow some yellow courgettes as well? And I’ve heard Sungold tomatoes are delicious. And, as we eat peppers and mange tout on a regular basis, why not try to grow those this year as well? Not sure where, but hey, I’ll find space somewhere!

Extra tomatoes and courgettes
Extra tomatoes and courgettes

Before I knew it, 5 packets of ‘top up’ veg seeds had become 12 exciting possibilities.

Just a few 'top up' seeds
Just a few ‘top up’ seeds

So, I needed to be more reserved with the flower seeds then. Just a packet of Busy Lizzies right? Wrong! To be fair, I did manage to resist quite a few, and put several packets back before reaching the checkout, but I finally came away with 7 packets of colourful awesomeness.

Flower seeds
How to resist?

It could be worse

My husband hung back from the till, decidedly unimpressed with the thought of ‘extra courgettes’ (sorry, my love) and not daring to view the final tally. But, hey, it’s cheaper than jewellery, right?!

So, let the sowing commence. I may need several lifetimes to sow and grow everything I’d like to, but it promises to be a fun year in the garden.

Happy sowing everyone!