January Compost Corner

It gets cold up north, by that I mean Scotland. The growing season can be a week later than here in the East Midlands and up to two weeks later than the South East, so when you heave out your gardening books for advice on how to prep the garden for spring, that's something to bear in mind.

As a rule of thumb, if you think it's too cold to work in the garden - it generally is. But no matter how harsh winter can be, during the odd warmer days, there is always something you can do. Having said that, there's not much you can plant and sow in a garden covered in frost... Or is there? How about shallots or garlic?

GarlicDon't try to use supermarket bought garlic, it's imported, unsuitable for the British climate and not certified for planting. Choose a decent UK stock like Solent Wight from your favourite garden centre.    

Plant the garlic cloves, pointy end up, an inch or so deep and a few inches apart, into large pots or raised bed of well hoed earth and compost. Then cover it with netting. Planting under glass, then transplanting in early spring, is also an option. Garlic crops tend to be better if planted in the autumn but January should still be fine as the bulbs need time in the cold. Remember to give your crop a feed in the spring and then it's a wait until the summer when the leaves turn yellowish and they're ripe for picking.

ShallotsShallots are more than just posh onions. They fare well in the winter and planting in February is the norm but traditionally they were panted on Boxing Day along with garlic, so a chilly January day shouldn't be a problem. Their milder flavour makes them a chef's favourite and there are many varieties available like Red Sun or Zebrune.

Shallots like well broken, firm, fine soil with a liberal dose of fertiliser, a few days ahead of planting, to get them going.

Make small holes about 9 inches apart and gently place the bulbs in with the top third sticking out. 

They should be ready for harvesting in July but remember to weed carefully without damaging the sets during the growing season as they can be a little delicate.

And that's shallot!                            

Peter Morris