...still turning inwards
I had a delightful start to January with a seed saving session with the Athlone Soroptimists - there was a first fortnight mental health focus and they found the seed harvesting very mindful, relaxing and engaging. All participants went home with at least 10 different types of seeds - flowers, vegetables, herbs, and instructions on how to plant them. Saving seeds from (thriving) locally grown plants gives you a great head-start when growing this seeds - they are genetically suited to being grown here in Ireland.
If you haven’t saved seeds yourself, you can buy seeds from Brown Envelope Seeds and Seed Savers - just like ones that you save yourself, these are seeds that are proven to grow really well in Ireland. And buying in January and February means that you have a better choice of seeds. some amazing varieties of tomatoes in Brown Envelope Seeds. There’s also a multi vendor website where small grower can offer their excess chemical free seeds, so plenty of choice. Hoping to see lots more flower varieties there soon!
It’s been pretty quiet on the gardening front since my Athlone outing, I did a little potting up of bulbs that were on sale, and some pruning. I am hoping to do some apple and pear grafting once the sap starts to rise, so I pruned some likely looking one year growth from a very prolific pear tree, and from a new variety of apple tree that seeded in a friends garden. It’s very tasty, small and sweet apple, with a pinkish flesh, and apparently the likelihood of a new variety of apples being delicious is pretty low. So it’s worth making a few more trees of this ‘Rhona’ Apple variety.
While January is definitely not a good time to be planting seeds, there is one exception to that rule. Chillis have a really long growing season, so getting them germinated in January is worthwhile, especially if you have somewhere warm that they can hang out until it’s safe to put them outside in the poly tunnel. I love to make chilli jam with my own home grown chillis, so I have better get some chilli seeds in compost on a heating mat soon! (When I make my chilli jam, I don’t use jam sugar, I make may own pectin from windfall apples)
At this point, even though it’s very cold, you could start some sweet peas - I have some that I started back in October/November last year, they are doing fine in the tunnel even though it’s been freezing in there. I like to plant them in toilet rolls so that I don’t disturb the roots when I plant them out. The ones below were looking a bit stringy, so after I took the photo I pinched out the tips to encourage some lateral growth.
So did I mention that I haven’t spent much time outside at all so far this month? Most unusual for me! But I am doing lots of yoga so that when I do get stuck into planting and weeding and everything else, my body will be ready for it. I’m enjoying this 30 day centering series, I hope that I’ll be in good shape when growth speeds up.
I’ll be planting lots of trees in Coole once they arrive from Trees on the Land and Future Forests. This is the perfect time of year to plant bare root trees - they are much easier to plant, as you don’t have to dig such a large hole, cheaper to buy, and require less energy to transport. We are converting a corner of the meadow to woodland, I’m so excited see how it develops. Last year we planted a native hedge there, and that’s starting to thrive. It’s not yet large enough to support any wildlife, but it will in time.
If you are just starting to grow, and you haven’t already done so, now is a great time to collect and lay down cardboard to prepare a no-dig bed. If you are not feeling the urge to get outside, that’s fine, just collect the cardboard. You can leave it outside - getting wet makes the tape easier to remove, and wet cardboard is heavier so it will stay in place once you more it later. If you already have beds, you can cover them with cardboard too, and put a bit of compost or seaweed on top, to protect and feed the soil.
I’ll be doing a bit of cardboard laying in advance of the tree planting in Coole, and we kept back 3 bales of hay from the later summer meadow mowing, so we’ll be mulching the trees with that too.
If you’d like to bring in something natural to put in a vase - instead of buying a bunch of tulips (or lilies) with a huge carbon footprint - look out for pussy willow on your walks and bring home a few willow branches that will become beautifully furry catkins when you bring them inside to the heat.
Valentine’s Day is not too far away now, so maybe it’s time to start hinting to your loved ones that you prefer a sustainable gift rather than roses flown from Africa or South America. Maybe a dried flower bouquet or gorgeous wreath that will last a lot longer? Or a subscription for (my) locally grown flowers that will be fulfilled once the growing season starts? Keep that loving feeling going for as long as possible, it’s not just one day of the year that the love flows.
Or better still - learn to grow flowers and you can give amazing bouquets to yourself and your loved ones throughout the year! I’m running a course with The Refill Mill, and I’ll be teaching participants how to grow classics like Sweet Pea and Love-in-the-mist (aka Nigella) from seed. Previous participants have reported great success, with an abundance of extra plants to give to their friends early in the season, and then loads of flowers to enjoy later.
Eibhlin and I are planning lots more interesting, sustainable, delicious courses - check out the courses page to see what’s in store!
And as always, I’ll leave you with a song - seems fitting right now, the snow fell, but now it’s melted and frozen and slushy. I’m sure it’s not what Lou Reed had in mind though…