From sweetcorn, beetroot and courgettes, this handy gardening guide will show you what to harvest, plant and sow in the month of January
What to harvest in the garden in January
- Who doesn’t love munching on freshly picked sweetcorn? The fresher the better with this crop as immediately after harvest the sucrose sugars start to convert to starch, meaning the cobs lose their sweetness. Pick when tassels turn brown. To avoid harvesting unripe cobs, peel back the leaves at the top and pierce some of the kernels. They should be plump and golden with a milky juice inside.
- Dig up potatoes as the tops turn yellow and die down. If you can’t bear to wait that long, try carefully ferreting around in the soil to pick some of the small sweet ones at the top, leaving the rest undisturbed. It’s called ‘bandicooting’ and means the plant will keep producing more spuds while you harvest a few at a time.
- Keep picking herbs so they’ll produce more leaves. During summer their flavour is at its most intense and a few handfuls of coriander, mint, parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme will make your barbecues and salads even more delicious.
- If you’re lucky enough to have space for stonefruit such as plums, peaches and nectarines, make sure you pick them quickly or the birds will beat you to it.
- Likewise with strawberries and other berries. Regular harvesting also encourages more berries.
- Garlic can be harvested from now on, ideally when the leaves turn yellow.
- Pick courgettes regularly when they’re small so they don’t turn into large marrows. A layer of straw mulch around plants will help keep fruit off the ground and stop pests eating them.
What to sow in the garden in January
- Regarded as a superfood because of its high levels of nutrients and antioxidants, beetroot can be grown all year round in warmer areas, and from early spring to early autumn in colder places. It is a fast-growing vegetable, which means you can plant a new crop every six weeks for a continuous harvest. Soak seed in water overnight to encourage germination then sow directly into the garden, ideally in well-drained soil or in pots. Choose a sunny position. Try sowing different coloured beetroot varieties: orange, yellow, white and striped.
- Coriander, but only in areas of the garden where it will get partial shade during the hot parts of the day to avoid plants bolting (starting to flower and produce seed rather than new leaves). Soil should be well drained but not super-fertile as too much nitrogen reduces flavour. Water regularly.
- Keep sowing carrot and radish seeds every 5 weeks so you’ll always have some crunchy salad vegetables. Harvest while small and sweet. In warmer areas they’ll need a little shade during the day at this time of year. One option is to sow between taller crops such as beans or sweetcorn that will provide shade.
- Courgette and dwarf and runner beans can also be sown now.
- Lettuce seed should be sown every 3-4 weeks to ensure a continuous crop. Part-shaded spots will be necessary in warmer gardens. Cut-and-come-again varieties can be harvested while plants are quite small. Feed regularly with liquid fish or seaweed fertiliser and give seedlings plenty of water.
- If you’ve got the room, sow pumpkin and squash seed now as they need 2-3 months of warm weather before harvest. To save space, plant near an upright structure like a fence or hedge so vines can spread over that. Soil should have plenty of organic matter added and the plants will need regular watering.
What to plant in the garden in January
- It’s still not too late to plant out sweetcorn seedlings, especially if you live in a warmer area. In colder places go for a short-season variety. Choose a position sheltered from strong winds with plenty of sun and well-drained soil. Dig plenty of compost, lime and/or blood and bone into the soil well before planting, as sweetcorn needs fertile soil.
- Whether you’re a telegraph fan or prefer the tasty little apple types, now is the time to plant cucumber seedlings as they need a good couple of months of hot weather to crop well.
- Fill up the gaps. Don’t let the weeds take root in the bare space when you’re harvesting early corn, potatoes or peas. Plant salad or winter greens immediately.
Beans, cucumber, pumpkin and dill are good companion plants for sweetcorn.
Words by: Carol Bucknell. Feature image by: Brigid Arnott/ bauersyndication.com.au. Illustrations by: Pippa Fay.