Wednesday, January 2, 2013

January: Irish Kitchen Garden tips and advice

Well, its time to start a new year and plan ahead.
One feels that growing your own food in 2013 will be even more important in the times we have.
Oil prices are high, so food is set to become more expensive.
Even a container or fish box can give you salads, herbs and other easy to grow crops so do give it a go. Home grown food is going to be fresher, I believe healthier and certainly more rewarding than plastic shrink wrapped or frozen equivalents. The flavour difference between frozen and fresh veg is huge.

I'm coming home in a few days to make a start on this years crops. It will be interesting to see how the garden has coped in my absence.
Last October I advised as to winter crops and jobs.

But if this is a start its still a good time to get the spade or hoe out and start turning the garden.
Frost and rain break up the soil and help disrupt weeds.
Turn over fairly big clods this allows the frost to break up the ground for you, helps kill off pests and aerated the soil.
Also, it provides some extra food for the birds, they will pick away at pests and bugs.
Don't forget to put out some feeders for our little feathered friends - they guard your garden.
Only February is colder and only December has shorter days. Its a good time to clean things up.
Wash and sterilize propagators. sharpen tools and tidy stuff away.
If you do not already have a compost bin, build one now.

Start putting down traps, especially on new ground for wire worms and beer traps for slugs.
Its never too early to make a dent in their populations - although at the moment its probably too cold for nematodes.

If you live near the sea January was the traditional start of the seaweed collection period. For new potato beds lay out seaweed - and be generous

Its time to order and browse seed catalogs and plan the garden, what goes where etc.
It is a great way to start to get past winter, reading up on those occasionally poetic and frequently funny veg names, its a reassurance of spring and growth and a new season on dark, cold and wet nights.
Save egg boxes as they will come in handy for potato chitting next month - whats an Irish veg patch without a few spuds?

Source your seed potatoes if you have not already done so.
When you’ve got your seed potatoes, set them in a light, cool, frost-free spot and leave them to sprout. Make sure you put the tubers with the 'eye' end - where the sprouts will grow from - upwards

You can already make a start on other vital crops - its getting a little late but get garlic cloves into the ground in a sunny spot.

On your window sill plant onion seeds in seed trays.
Indoors or in a shed for early crops eg: lettuces, summer brassicas (e.g. cabbages and cauliflowers), spinach, salad onions and turnips.

Stake or earth up Brussels sprout stalks and kales that look leggy and vulnerable to wind rock.
Pick the biggest sprouts from low down the stalks first.

Force chicory / witloof to produce plump leafy heads.
You can start forcing rhubarb, seakale and chicory in January.

Rhubarb is forced by placing an up-turned bucket/pot over the plant to exclude light.
The warmer the environment the quicker it will grow; you can place manure or straw over the top to encourage growth of the pale, sweet shoots.
Seakale is forced the same way, only there is no need for extra warmth.

Apply winter washes to fruit trees and bushes. Ensure tree stakes and ties are firm and sound.

Prune gooseberry, currant and autumn raspberry bushes.

Prune apple and pear trees - but not stoned fruit trees like cherry or plum.

Plant bare-root trees and bushes, as long as the soil isn't frozen.

Apply a top dressing of sulphate of potash to all fruits and nuts.

Thanks for reading, if this is your first year growing your own food - stick with it, its fantastically rewarding, and if your a returning reader, thanks for sticking with my erratic blogging.

Again, Please do take the time to comment - I really do value and appreciate the feedback.
Please also let others know about the blog, its nice to think it is of help to others.

All the best for 2013 - Simon (the one in the middle)

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