• The Blooming Old Gardener

Diversions that ease the bite of any winter

"There are two seasonal diversions that can ease the bite of any winter.  One is the January thaw.  The other is the seed catalogues." -  Hal Borland

January is my planning month. Although there are still jobs to do in the garden, I like to reflect on the previous year and learn from what has happened. I also go through my tin of seed packets to sort out which to plant the following year, where and when. We provide seeds for the Bloomers garden, the station and Unlock Runcorn raised beds. To help with planning, I listed all the seeds on a spreadsheet, by month and where to sow. But gave up when almost everything had to be sowed indoors in April. I need a house with a lot more window ledges, or a lot more houses.

The Book tree has been overflowing. There’s lots of kids books at the moment, as well as thrillers. And a few diet books have been donated too. So, I assume someone’s new year resolution didn’t last very long. If you are looking for something to read or to read to someone else, come and have a look in the tree.

I’ve often been asked where I get information for my blog. Well, one source is the Almanac that I am given for Xmas each year, thanks to Claire. Each month it lists facts about the month. It has categories such as The Moon, The Sky, The Garden, The Kitchen. And each year there is a theme. This year it is Migration, Movement and Pilgrimage. All things which were difficult for us to do last year. So the cultural stories, songs, festivals etc are to do with this ie sea shanties, Romany/Traveller words and recipes. To start with, the Romani word for January is Iveskero, meaning ‘month of the snows’. A particularly difficult time for travelling.

Talking of travel, I’ve been to Runcorn Station a couple of times this month. One raised bed is under cover so doesn’t get much rainwater. Amazingly a chard is still growing well. But the cabbage, kale, herbs and gooseberry aren’t happy at all. Of course, people using the beds as seats and an ashtray isn’t helping either. I’ve taken some damp compost and chicken manure to top up both beds. Maybe the idea of sitting on chicken poo might protect them a bit.

I was looking at the blog I wrote for January last year. It seems that we had lots of kale, beetroot and spinach to pick. Unfortunately, most of the kale and beetroot disappeared in Nov and Dec and what is left is too small. We do have cabbage, chard, spinach and spring onions though. Like last year our parsnips and yellow swede aren’t big enough to eat. So once again there are no neeps for my haggis on Burns night. The Jerusalem artichokes were abundant though. There were enough for me to cook, plant and pass on to a few Bloomers.

Most of the flowers have died off. I’m not collecting all the dead leaves and stems though. These are being left in case creatures are living amongst them. Dead vegetation makes a good winter bed for them, as does Bugingham Palace.

Bulbs are shooting up round the garden, as are the weeds. It won’t be long before I am talking about what is flowering again. Meanwhile I was very excited to find the snowdrops were up, alongside the Christmas Box which has small white flowers.

The first Draw on Halton exhibition is still in the garden. The ‘Draw on Halton 2’ challenge is underway and had ‘Nature’ as its subject at the beginning of the month. The submissions showed how people loved being out and about, even in the winter. So, if you like nature, don’t forget the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch at the end of the month. If you don’t have your own garden then go to a park, or use the Bloomers garden. It only takes an hour. You can find out all about it on the RSPB website.


The Blooming Old Gardener

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