Freezing February

The past few days and nights have been bitterly cold, snowing on and off but not enough to settle as it did last month. Despite the cold I forced myself outside to do some jobs in the garden yesterday, first up was tackling the area behind the chicken runs which became a dumping ground for things such as off cuts of timber, chicken wire and other bits and bobs we collect throughout the year with every intention of using them. After a good sort through most of it went in the outbuilding, the area is now clear and ready for some new compost bins that we plan to build using pallets very soon. Next on the list was cutting back wild brambles that had tangled themselves around the tops of the apple trees, I found this very easy to do with a pair of long handled loppers. 

We still have quite a few parsnips in the ground and I managed to pull some up for dinner even though the ground was semi frozen. The vibrations from wiggling parsnips free from the soil brought earthworms to the surface, I was aware the whole time I was being watched by the resident Robin, eyeing up an easy meal.

I often work in the garden alone but I’m never lonely, the chickens are usually under my feet and our dog is my shadow, she loves being outside with me whatever the weather (actually that isn’t strictly true she dislikes rain and so do I). She turns 12 in August and slowing down, until she sees a squirrel. 

What’s Growing on in January

I love writing these monthly catch ups on our kitchen garden, documenting the activities and plans. It’s a good excuse to get the camera out and really study the garden changing throughout the year. I use these posts as a reminder to look back on too.

January is usually a hard month for a lot of people, the weather hasn’t helped lift moods being so gloomy and dark. Threatening skies, murky and damp, I’m surprised some of our hens have come back into lay so soon.

But there are signs of good things to come. Take our rhubarb for example, it’s just starting to burst into life again after a brief moment of dormancy. It may not look much right now but in just a few weeks, it will. It’ll be all blushing stalks and leaves as big as dinner plates.

Go rhubarb!

If you want a super early rhubarb that tastes great and makes beautiful jams then Timperley Early is a great addition to your vegetable garden or allotment. It reappears soon after being dormant in autumn, pushing egg-like buds through the soil as early as December. Superb for forcing, it crops so early naturally you can pull it unforced late February to Early March. It’s not the heaviest cropping rhubarb but well worth growing for early cropping.

We’re still pulling some lovely roots from the carrot and parsnip beds. Autumn King carrots over winter in our garden and of course parsnips taste even sweeter after a good frosting. Long and straight parsnips from a no dig bed in its second year, not bad at all!

Kale ‘Nero Di Toscana’ (black Tuscan kale) has served us well throughout winter, the plants now resemble mini exotic palm trees with bare stems and leafy tops. Double rows of broad bean seedlings continue to grow well, protected under tunnel cloches from the destruction of chicken beaks and feet.

New growth sprouting at the base of the blackcurrants.

Our Brahma chickens enjoying some free time in the vegetable garden. When spring arrives and seed sowing begins the chickens are kept out using barrier mesh fencing.

I spotted some frogs in the wildlife pond preparing to attract a mate for spawning soon. We love the call of the males, we should start to hear it by next month.

We plan to sow chillies and tomatoes indoors in seed trays very soon, potting on throughout spring as needed. We do this every year with great results, eventually planting healthy and sturdy plants into the greenhouse towards the end of May, once night-time temperatures are steady enough.

I’m looking forward to putting a seed order or two in soon, it’s so exciting waiting for seed packets to arrive. I always try to grow either a new variety or something completely new to our garden each growing year, this year I’m thinking about growing Oca for the first time. Exciting!

Do you plan to grow something new this year?