It is the New Year – or at least that is what the calendar says , but there is very little to do in the garden at the moment so does the gardeners year begin now? – Maybe it would be more suitable to join up with the tax man and make the Gardeners New Year at the beginning of April when we actually begin to get busy in the garden?
Well, let me share a quotation from an age old gardener “an hour at home in the drawing room is worth two hours in the garden and three on the allotment.”
Just like a house needs foundations, a garden needs a plan, the difference is – you are the architect, the builder and the person that will enjoy the outcome!
Philosophy aside, now we all have a bit of extra time to put pen to paper and plan the coming year. As we turn the calendar to 2017 , last years plan and pitfalls are still fresh in our minds; leave it to March / April and you have missed the boat!
So let us begin with crop rotation, this is extremely important to avoid a build up of garden pests that adhere to certain plants and to ensure the right balance of nutrients in the soil as each group of plants make a different strain on the soil’s nutrients. With planting a different plant the next year this nutrient will have time to replenish itself and not become depleted from the soil.
Crop rotation simplified
To simplify crop rotation : just remember the basics: The 3 main groups are Brassicas, Roots, and a third category of everything else, and now for the three main rules: – add lime before the Brassicas, add manure before the others, and always add a general fertilizer but always leave a gap between adding fertilizer and anything else.
So my advice is first make a plan of your garden or allotment and write down exactly what was planted in each section, if you have a good memory and you remember what you planted 2 years ago write that in also, but with a different coloured pen – now with a different coloured pen again, fill in what you intend to grow in each section in the coming year. You now have a distinctive crop rotation planner!
Now clip your paper plan to a clipboard and pay a visit to the allotment; compare what you have written to the size, and nature of the intended place – if it is not suitable then exchange that crop with another – keep in mind the past crops and the length of time the crop will be in the ground. You don’t have to follow your plan to the letter but at least you have started your gardening year on the right path.
Tool Sharpening Tips
Another important job to begin the year is to sharpen tools that tend to get blunt like hoes and spades. In fact, I find that new spades (that you might have recently got as presents!) especially stainless steel ones, tend to be sold exceedingly blunt. The age old advice is to run a file over them to sharpen them – I find this a tedious job, and very difficult to get a straight edge. Instead fit a sharpening stone bit (widely available for a couple of pounds),at the end of your electric drill and run it along the cutting edge of the spade or hoe as in the picture. Dig it into the ground when you have finished and you will see that the sharpening exercise was worth doing. With fresh sharp tools in hand now is the time to dig over the soil, [forget the no dig garden –the idea was designed by either a gardener with acute arthritis or a lazy fellow!] ]You and your garden will both benefit from a good dig .
So if good gardening is all about preparation : Yes, the Gardening New Year has just begun!
Money saving Tip.
Stores like B&Q have already begun to sell summer flowering bulbs , which do not look good next to bulbs that should be planted in the Autumn, look in store and you will see that they have reduced the autumn planting bulbs by around 70%, and it is not too late to plant tulips or alliums (but I would be wary with daffodils), go grab a bargain.
Happy gardening in the New Year,
Boris Legarni .
Next week : Reclaiming the pond!