Happy new year! Welcome to January.
To sow this month: carrots, beetroot, fennel, cucumbers, lettuce, early turnips, corn, silverbeet, zucchini, beans
To plant from punnets: tomatoes, eggplant, chilis, lettuces, fennel
This month you will be kept busy with a lot of harvesting. Beans, zucchinis, cucumbers, chilis and tomatoes will be appearing quickly and it is a good idea to harvest them as soon as they’re ripe to let the plant put energy into producing more new flowers and more produce.
Sow in the gaps
As you are harvesting, don’t forget to resow in the empty spaces! It can be easy to get caught up in picking produce now and not thinking about the future months. I direct sow lettuce, zucchini, beans, and radishes constantly to ensure a continuous amount of produce. In the cooler areas, down south, you can start sowing early varieties of turnips now too. Baby turnips don’t take long to grow and you’ll have something new for your salads!
Prepare beds for leeks and brassicas
I am starting seeds now for all my winter brassicas. While the seedlings are growing (either indoors or under netting), I use this month to prepare the spaces where they will go. Brassicas especially are heavy feeders so pile on a good amount of compost and aged manure.
Remember crop rotation. If in the previous season you had planted brassicas in a certain place, don’t plant them there again the following season. This will deplete the soil of nutrients and if there are brassica diseases present, they will infect the next crop too.
Check for bugs and diseases
The tomato/potato psyllid is out now and can wreak havoc on your toms and spuds! Know what to check for if you think you may have this bug. Kath Irvine from the Edible Backyard has a great article here.
Blight, particularly on tomatoes is another problem. Telltale signs are black spots and rings on the leaves, fruit may start to rot and the leaves turn yellow and drop off. Once your plants have blight you should destroy the plants (not compost as the fungal spores can survive) and make sure not to plant the same plant there again for a few years. Blossom end rot is a problem often confused with blight. The bottom end of the fruit (where the blossom is) rots. This usually caused by erratic watering or sometimes a too acidic soil. Unlike blight, this isn’t a plant disease.
You can avoid blight by keeping your tomatoes well staked and trimmed to allow better air circulation. A spray of 1 tbsp baking soda per litre of water is effective too, at the first sign of blight or as a precautionary measure. This spray also works well for powdery mildew, another fungal disease that can affect many plants but is common on squash and pumpkin plants. Signs of this are a white powdery looking dusting on top of the leaves.
Net your fruit
Lots of stone fruits, apples, and pears are ready or very close to being ready and the birds are just waiting patiently to attack. Net your trees and berry bushes now to avoid your trees being stripped bare. It is amazing how fast birds can work. On Facebook, I read a post a lady wrote about someone stealing all her cherries from the tree one day. Turns out it wasn’t a sticky-handed thief, just hungry birds. Not one cherry was left!
Keep on top of liquid feeding! A bi-weekly or weekly dose of a good liquid fertiliser will have your vegetables thanking you. Try some homemade ones here.
Preserve your excess
Jams, chutneys, dehydrating, freezing… After you have had your share of fresh, given away to friends and families, preserve your leftovers so you have some for the winter! My larder is filling up quickly with different fruits I have collected. To preserve mine I use this simple bottling method here, or I dehydrate my excess. Dried fruit is a delicious snack and dehydrating is one of the healthiest ways to preserve produce.
What’s your favourite thing to do with your fruit gluts?