Time to catch up on garden admin

The good news: we’ll gain an hour’s more light a day this month, for the first time since summer. The winter solstice is now two weeks’ past. The only way is up – like the sun. Just take your time. My advice, unless you have a compelling reason, is to keep off the soil. January ground is likely to be waterlogged or frozen. Neither are good for digging. The old simple rule: if mud sticks to your feet, steer clear for another month.

Instead, browse the catalogues and online sites, order rarer seed now in case it sells out (at least that’s what I’ll tell myself). Check out whether there are any Seedy Sunday events near you. Think about whether to plant potatoes this year and if so, which. You can start to chit them this month by keeping them in a light, frost-free space. I still use egg trays. Position the potato end with the most eyes upwards. When they have sprouted, retain the three strongest shoots.

Think about ordering onion and shallot sets. These can go in the ground from February. Time, too, to think about what else you’ll want to grow this year and where. Anything new? Maybe make a planting plan.

If your ground is not soaked or frozen, you can sow broad beans outside. You could also plant garlic if your winter weather’s usually mild. Otherwise, it is safest to wait a month.

If you haven’t done so by now – and it’s warm enough – you can winter-prune apple and pear trees. The same goes for currant and gooseberry bushes. If it’s been mild, remember to check for aphids. Protect hardier herbs against the cold. Harvest winter cabbages and kales, remaining root crops.

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You can also force rhubarb from now. But remember too to mooch about, check on wildlife and birds, say quiet thanks and look forward to happier new year.

Allan Jenkins’s Plot 29 (4th Estate, £9.99) is out now. Order it for £8.49 from


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