On the plot: a new year checklist

Joanna Cruddas

Remember to include the garden in your New Year activities, says Joanna Cruddas. Down at the allotments, the ground is too wet to dig so housekeeping is the main activity; get spring-cleaning your shed and greenhouse; start ordering seeds and plants for the coming months.

Clean out the greenhouse

Remove all plants and place in a sheltered spot. Then brush out the greenhouse, being meticulous to throw away the unwanted clutter that so easily accumulates.

Clean all structural parts with disinfectant or detergent.

To be sure to kill any lingering diseases or unwanted aphids, fumigate with a sulphur or chemical-free garlic candle.

Check gutters are stable and scoop out any moss, leaves and general debris.

 

Water tanks and butts

Empty water containers—they should soon fill up again at this time of year—and scrub to get rid of the slimy algae.

If re-filling them from a tap you could add potassium permanganate crystals to help keep the water clean. You will need to top up the crystals as you use the water.

 

Garden sheds

There’s no better time to sort out the garden shed.

Wash flower pots and leave to dry before stacking. If they are heavy and likely to stick together, put newspaper between each one.

Gently smash cracked terracotta pots to use as crocks in the bottom of pots. (Protect your eyes from flying pieces.)

Check all stored garden products, keeping only the ones that are still useable. Safely dispose of any you don’t use or are damaged. 

Clean tools: rub off any rust with wire wool or fine sandpaper; oil hinges and wooden handles if getting dry and cracked.

Check out hidden spots where mice might nest or slugs settle.

Remember to store gumboots upside down (rake, broom and wheelbarrow handles are useful for this). The foot of a gumboot makes the perfect nesting spot for a broody mouse.

Check netting for holes; wash out old pieces of fleece in warm soapy water. They may carry fungal spores or disease from previous use.

 

Time to get chitting

apache potato

If you haven’t ordered your seed potatoes, don’t dally! A north-facing windowsill (or any cool spot) is a good place to chit the potatoes. Empty boxes make protective holders for the seed potatoes.

Wondering what to order? A mix of early and main crop ensures a long harvest. I love first-early Rosabelle, second-early Charlotte and this year I’m adding maincrop Apache (pictured above), for its beautiful red and cream skin.

 

Start the new year on the (up)right foot

Paving stones get slimy and slippery in winter. Scrub and hose them down with an outdoor cleaner such as Jeyes Fluid. 

 

A spider update

Some of you may remember from my December post that I have been sharing my dining room window with a common garden spider since mid-August.

Stalwart through gales and rain, she continued to keep her web in immaculate order. Work completed, she would usually settle at some mid-point between top and bottom of the window for most of the day.

On December 12th I looked out to see she was no longer there. It was no surprise because I knew it was time for her to die, but I’d become accustomed to watching her and I miss her.

 

Joanna Cruddas lives in London and gardens at her plot in Fulham Palace Meadows Allotments, on her balcony, and in her window boxes. She is the author of The Three-Year Allotment Notebook with photographs by Edwina Sassoon.