You might think it isn't the best time of year to buy plants for your garden, but you might just be surprised.
January Garden Sales
It’s January Sales time and the high street is flooded with large posters shouting how much cheaper everything is inside the shops, or that everything must go!
The ideal present
You may think this isn’t the time to be buying anything for the garden, especially as it’s still so dark and miserable for most of the day, but I’ve found it can be one of the best times to do so. My family soon learned that garden gift tokens are a good Christmas present for me, and picking up a few bargains in January helps their generosity go much further.
I regularly satisfy my lust for more bulbs during this time. There are often surplus daffodils and tulips from last year, which can now be picked up for a song. The gardening ‘rules’ say these should have been planted months ago, especially in the case of daffodils, however I’ve had plenty of success by ignoring those rules and planting in January.
picking the right bulb
The key to success is having a good look at what’s on offer and understanding their needs in the garden. If the bulbs are still firm with no sign of mould, then they’re still viable. If they’ve started to sprout that’s also OK, as long as the shoots are relatively short and green, rather than long, straggly and white. Also look out for the bulb size – you can see from the picture, this can vary. The smaller bulb shown is probably best used for one year, whereas the fatter bulb has a much better chance of flowering for a second year and possibly beyond.
cold weather planting
Daffodils and tulips like a burst of cold weather to help them grow, so planting them in January means there’s always a risk the remains of winter may be mild. However, at 50p to £1 per packet, I’m willing to give them a go and I’ve only had one bad year out of the last five. I picked up some packets of ‘Spring Green’ and ‘Queen of Night’ tulips on Saturday – these are destined for the allotment, where they’ll form the early part of my new cut flower patch. It’s also great to have something ‘planty’ to do at this time of the year.
Heading indoors I also picked up a Hippeastrum bulb last Saturday. These are popular gifts at Christmas, but personally I prefer to grow mine in January to cheer up winter’s gloom. This year, I’ve managed to acquire ‘Vera’ for £1.49 instead of £6.99 – a bargain! I’m still within the usual growing time for these, so it shouldn’t be long until I obtain a bloom like the one in the picture.
This year’s bargains aren’t confined to bulbs. I could have picked up plenty of seeds at 10p a packet. However, I was able to resist temptation as a search through my seed tin before hitting the shops revealed I need to give some away at our local seed swap rather acquiring more. Large ticket items weren’t left out either – there were some good bargains to be had in the garden furniture department for instance. This is always worth considering if you don’t mind having last year’s fashion instead of the season’s new.
Bargains best avoided
One note of caution in the bargain line; always take care with any compost or other growing media on offer. If they’ve been lying around outside all winter, any wet weather will have drained them of their added nutrients as well as making the bags much heavier to carry. That is a ‘bargain’ best avoided, unless they’re cheap enough to use as soil conditioner or they’ve been kept indoors since delivery to the store.
What garden bargains have you found this year?
Michelle Chapman is a gardener, freelance writer and garden blogger from Wiltshire. She writes the award winning blog, Veg Plotting, where her small town garden is a regular feature alongside any topic which springs to mind whilst at her allotment.
Images © Michelle Chapman