If you enjoy gardening and have a little bit of spare ground, why not make this the year you start 'growing your own'?
You can enjoy produce at its absolute freshest, safe in the knowledge that it has none of the chemical residues linked to pesticides often used in supermarket produce. You can also enjoy organic vegetables without paying the high price often charged by the supermarkets.
Growing your own is a great form of relaxation and offers a huge sense of satisfaction as the fruits, or vegetables, of your labours emerge over the seasons.
The winter months are predominantly a time of planning; however, if you're raring to go, you can get started on a few things now.
Onions from seed need a long growing season and can be sown now. Raise in modules on a warm windowsill for planting out in March.
You can start forcing rhubarb. Rhubarb is forced by placing an up-turned bucket/pot over the plant to exclude light. The warmer the environment the quicker it will grow; and you can place manure or straw over the top to encourage growth of the shoots.
Tomato plants will thrive on a sunny window sill or in a greenhouse. They simply need to be planted in small pots in good quality seed compost and kept in a bright place to make sure they germinate.
You can now get seed potatoes from the garden centre. Put them in a light, cool, frost-free spot and leave them to sprout. Egg boxes make the ideal container for this stage, make sure you put the tubers with the 'eye' end - where the sprouts will grow from - upwards.
If you have enough space, make some early sowings in trays in January. Try lettuce, summer cabbage and cauliflower, some varieties of carrots, spinach, salad onions and turnips. Germination temperatures of around 13°c are adequate so a windowsill is fine to get these seeds going.
Garlic is one of the easiest vegetables to grow, you can plant in January for a harvest in July/August. Each bulb is grown from the individual clove of a garlic bulb. You can purchase your bulb from the supermarket but these are often treated with a bulb inhibitor and as such will not produce new bulbs. Best to buy organic or from a farm shop if possible.
There is a wealth of advice and information available in books, magazines, TV and the internet to help you become a successful vegetable gardener, but for expert and local advice why not join South East Essex Organic Gardeners (SEEOG)? Formed in 1994 to promote the principles of organic gardening, SEEOG holds regular public meetings, attends two local farmers’ markets, exhibits at shows and open days, organises outings and gives talks.
Why not go along on Monday 21st January from 7:00pm till 10:00pm at Growing Together Gardens, 47 Fairfax Drive, Southend, SS0 9AG.
Here you can learn the tricks of the trade from guest speakers, browse the library, meet new friends and enjoy the refreshments on offer. Entry is open to all for a mere £2 per person, and you can find full details on thebestof Southend's Events page.
There is little to beat the satisfaction of sitting down to dine on a feast of your own home grown; now is the time to get started!
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