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January is the quietest month in the garden

"January is the quietest month in the garden. ... But just because it looks quiet doesn't mean that nothing is happening. The soil, open to the sky, absorbs the pure rainfall while microorganisms convert tilled-under fodder into usable nutrients for the next crop of plants. The feasting earthworms tunnel along, aerating the soil and preparing it to welcome the seeds and bare roots to come." - Rosalie Muller Wright, Editor of Sunset Magazine

Well, we’ve all hopefully got over our Christmas and New Year celebrations and are now well in to January. The month named after Janus, the Roman god with 2 heads. One looking back to the previous year and the other looking forward to the new one. And we are looking forward to what we can do in our garden over the coming year.

The recent frosts have affected the more delicate annual plants, like our begonias. It’s amazing that they have lasted this long. But now they have been killed off by being frozen, so we are tidying them up, along with carrying on dead heading and weeding.

At this time of the year you don’t expect many flowers, but our snowdrops are just starting to poke through now. Different parts of the garden are more sheltered than others. So we have planted patches of snowdrops and other bulbs round the garden so that they will flower at slightly different times. A shrub that is flowering now, for its first time, is our Christmas Box, at the entrance to the garden. Its only small now, but hopefully it will look more impressive as it gets bigger.

The veg garden still has produce to be picked. I’ve just pulled up the leeks and parsnips. The quality and sizes varied, probably because of the dry summer, but having tried them, they tasted as they should. I was quite pleased that so many parsnips grew as they can often have a problem germinating from seed.

The garden still has cabbage ready to pull up and kale growing too. Kale seems a good plant to grow for the winter as the frost hasn’t really been bothering it. I know a few healthy people who use kale as an ingredient in a smoothie. But personally I prefer to use it in a less healthy way, as a crispy seaweed snack. I use a Sainsbury’s recipe which gives it the flavours I prefer.

Recipe for Crispy Seaweed. Thinly slice about 200g of curly kale (take out the thick stem first) from the garden. Then put it in a bowl and toss it with 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp sesame seeds and ¼ tsp salt. Spread this out on a large baking tray, then sprinkle over about 1 tbsp demerara sugar. Bake for 7 minutes in a preheated oven at 190°C/fan 170°C/gas mark 5. Remove from the oven and toss. Sprinkle over another 1 tbsp demerara sugar and cook for a further 7 minutes, until crispy. Mix well again before serving. Some people also sprinkle a bit of Chinese 5 spice powder over it, or deep fry the kale and toss in all the other ingredients afterwards or leave out the sesame seeds. So you can always experiment to find the way that’s best for you.

Blooming Old Gardener

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