Winter, particularly January, can be a difficult time for a gardener. It’s a month where you can’t really start sowing anything unless you have heated propagators, and still I have learned that sowing seeds early leads to overpopulated windowsills and leggy seedlings. What is exciting, however, is that you start to see the first signs of life. Small, green, promises of life to come in the form of leaves and shoots. The tops of crocus and narcissi breaking through the soil. That, and poring through seed catalogues, are just about enough to tie us over. I suspect many people assume that because we don’t have nice, deep beds with lush dark soil, there’s not much you can grow in a container garden. This couldn’t be further from the truth!
What you can do during the winter months is plan. I have some seeds from last season, and I bought quite a few seeds from Chiltern Seeds recently. I don’t really need any more seeds – or plants, really – but we all know I’d be lying if I said I am not going to buy any more!
Find an event near you
As part of the Garden Media Guild, I am very excited to attend the Press Event in February next year. I don’t quite know what to expect, but I have been told it is a good opportunity to suss out what is new. If you want to bag a bargain, National Trust shops tend to sell plants that are past their prime at half price. For example, last autumn I bought one pot of banana mint and two pots of Viola ‘Freckles’ for half price. And just last weekend I found some nepeta and salvias for half price as well.
Another event I am hoping to go to is my local Potato Day and Seed fair. You can find the one closest to you here, and I am excited to see that Oxford will have its first one on Thursday 22nd February 2018. It is open from 2pm – 7pm at West Oxford Community Centre (Botley Road, OX2 0BT), and it’s free entry. The reason why I am going this year is, partly, because I don’t need as big a quantity as I normally get when I order online. This year, I will grow my potatoes in grow bags.
Organise your seeds into months
Instead of getting carried away and using all the windowsills, I am going to try and direct sow (into pots) more. Also, with the addition of the cold frame to the garden I am hoping to protect seedlings in early spring. I often find that I do a lot of sowing when I first get started. Then there’s a lull, and then I panic and sow everything in May. So, I am going to try and 1) make a list of what needs sowing when and 2) practice what I preach and do successional sowing more efficiently.
Here are some new varieties I am going to try and grow in 2018:
|Early spring||Late spring||Early summer||Late summer|
|Musk strawberry||Cucamelon||Cucumber 'Crystal Lemon'||Purple carrot|
|Strawberry 'Temptation'||Tomatillo 'Purpleino'||Chicory Red|
|Strawberry 'Yellow Wonder'||Tomato Microcherry|
|Carrot Royal Chatenay 3|
|Cinnamon basil||Nasturtium 'Tom Thumb'||Aquilegia 'Black Barlow'||Angelica archangelica|
|Calendula ‘Snow Princess’||Nasturtium ‘Milkmaid’||Echinacea Purple Coneflower|
|Hyssop ‘Navajo Sunset’||Bells of Ireland||Cosmos ‘Xanthos’|
|Delphinium ‘Misty Lavender’||Verbena ‘Peaches & Cream’||Helianthus ‘Italian White’|
|Sweet Pea Vintage Silk||Scabious ‘Sternkugel’||Helianthus ‘Valentine’|
|Panicum elegans ‘Sprinkles’||Briza media Doddering Dillies|
|Eucalyptus gunnii ‘Silverdrop’||Agrostis nebulosa Cloud Grass|
I will continue to grow some favourites such as mangetout, and staples like spinach, salad leaves and cucumber. Are you going to try and grow something different this year in your container garden?