Posted by in Features.

We’ve certainly had a hard start to winter and I suspect there’s more snow to come but the good news is that a hard winter often means a good summer will follow. However, my attempts at guessing the weather have been consistently wrong in the past so no predictions or refunds if I’m wrong.

One lesson nature has taught me over the years is not to be in too much of a rush. I’ve had more failures and seen others have more failures by starting too early than starting late. It’s OK for the show growers, they’re aiming to have their crops ready for shows and start off in climate controlled greenhouses with banks of artificial lighting. Us mortal growers need to wait until the seasons and conditions are right.

Of course, greenhouses, coldframes and heated propagators have their place but you use them to steal a few weeks on nature not months. There’s a sowing / harvesting chart on the web site that may be helpful to you. Don’t forget to adjust for where you are.

January is the traditional time for sales although we were surprised to find some furniture we’d looked at before Christmas is actually now dearer in the 75% off sale! Anyway, our publisher has done a deal with us and I’m now able to offer all our books with free delivery and £10.00 worth of seeds plus a voucher. Big thanks to Suttons Seeds and Harrod Horticulture for their generosity as well. Our Book Sale

Incidentally, if you’ve some equipment, seeds or plants to sell (or buy) then take a look at our classified advert pages. There’s no charge for basic personal adverts and if you want to feature them use this code WINTERVEG to do it for free in January. Classified Adverts.

If, like me, you get seed catalogues sent to you each year then you’ll have noticed a pattern. New varieties are launched with great fanfare each year, you know the type of hype “sweeter than any other” or “produces more than any other”. The next year though they’re nowhere to be found.

I’m really cautious about buying new varieties. OK, some things are real innovations like clubroot resistant brassicas or fly resistant carrots but I have a sneaky suspicion that some of the new varieties offered are more job-lots to clear than improvement on the old. Once something has been around for a few years, then probably it’s worth investing the time and effort to grow it. Do be careful before being seduced by the hype. Try a new variety of two each year, but make sure you’ve still got your ‘bankers’ – i.e. the varieties you can bank on, proven by the test of time.

I’ve tried all sorts of runner beans but still my favourite is Painted Lady – it’s been around longer than me, I think! Which brings us nicely to something you can start now. Decide where your runner beans are going to go and start off your bean trench. Just dig a trench a couple of spits deep (a spit is the depth of your spade) and line it with newspaper and fill with your kitchen vegetable waste.

Come May or June when you’re ready to sow or plant out your beans, fill in the top with soil. The trench will not only contain nutrients but also retain water to carry your beans through any dry spells.

It seems strange to think about preparing for a dry spell in the depths of winter when the snow has only just melted, but that’s really what growing is all about. You have to plan ahead. A good veg plot is not something you get overnight, like a TV makeover show. It took me eight years to get the soil on my plots something like. Each year we get a little better and learn a little more.

If you’ve not got your garlic in yet, then consider starting them off in pots, preferably in the greenhouse or coldframe. Once the shoots are up, plant them out at the first opportunity. I did this last year as I was held back by the weather with excellent results.

The next newsletter will be February. Feel free to forward this newsletter to your friends if you wish or let people know they can sign up for their own copy here.

The separate poultry newsletter is available here:

Thanks for reading and see you online