January In The Vegie Patch + Autumn Crops A Go Go

The garden in January - flowers, vegetables, greencrops - no bare earth remains!

January is an opportunity to extend our summer crops. To create a lovely continuity for when our current crops call it quits. Successional planting/ sowing is the proper name. Let’s just call it – not going hungry, little and often planting, or production plus 🙂

And while we’re at it, let’s think about dinner in Autumn. Let’s get some new long term stuff planted to keep your vegie patch abundant all the way from Summer through Autumn. Not in an excessive, big mission way. But a regular, little way.

What to sow and plant in January

direct sown salads
Direct sown coriander and salads and rocket beneath shadecloth to protect from birds and weather, on the east side of beans for afternoon shade.

DIRECT SOW

  • Coriander, rocket, radish and landcress (one of my favs!) along the picking edge on the shady side of taller summer crops
  • Carrots and parsnips
  • Lupin greencrops to prep the soil for brassicas
  • Calendula, cornflower, marigold, bishops flower, phacelia, honesty and borage. Choose vigorous self seeders that’ll pop up of their own accord when conditions are perfect. Self sufficient plants we love and adore.
bee on zinnia
Zinnias amongst zuchinni

TRAY SOW

  • Celery, silverbeet, chard, perpetual spinach or kale for autumn and winter harvests. Chard and perpetual beet self seed readily so let them develop seedheads over summer and you will never need sow them again.
  • Brassicas for autumn – a few each of cauli, cabbage, broccoli every month or so brings mixed, regular harvests from autumn through spring.
  • Leeks, early January for winter eating. They take ages from seed so start now.
  • Zinnias, sunflowers, stock, hollyhock, aster, anise hyssop, coreopsis and chamomile, to name a few.
  • The last lot of cucumber or zucchini for warmer regions or the greenhouse.
Chioggia Beetroot

DIRECT OR TRAY SOW

  • Saladings (choose heat lovers like Tree lettuce, Merveille de Quarter Saison, Drunken Woman, Oak Leaf, Summer Queen)
  • Direct or tray sow Beetroot. Use your edges for this, unless you need a heap to pickle/ bottle you don’t need a whole bed. Such a small efficient crop, they can be squeezed in anywhere.
  • Basil is best young. Keep a fresh supply all summer/ autumn long with little and often sowings. Sow into warm garden soil or a tray.
  • Green beans – dwarf or climbing, for warmer regions or the greenhouse. Get climbers in early this month for cropping from mid March. As long as they dont dry out they’ll crop till May or it gets cold – which ever comes first.
The garden fork stays by the leeks to make harvest easy
Little and often plantings of leeks make for useful, regular harvests

TRANSPLANT

  • Basil, marigolds and tomatoes – the classic trio. January planted tomatoes usually out shine spring planted ones at my place and can carry on until late autumn/ early winter. If you are planting outside, choose hardy cocktails or fast cropping bush or determinate varieties.
  • Zuchinni, for a useful Autumn harvest
  • Cucumber can go outside if its warm enough for another few months, otherwise plant in the greenhouse
  • Corn in warmer regions if you have enough water.
  • If January isnt roasting hot, potatoes can go in. Be sure they dont dry out. Cover with insect mesh to keep psyllids and aphids out.
  • Plant spring onions and leeks. Both of these are useful if they are ready to harvest in a staggered fashion throughout the cooler months rather than one big lot ready at once. Space your plantings out, unless you live somewhere cool in which case this month may well be your moment.
  • Brassicas and leafy greens flourish in mild, moist conditions – all the things that the middle of summer is not. Shade is the answer. Plant them on the east side of taller crops, underneath or amongst an older crop thats finished or make a simple shade house by tying shadecloth onto stakes. shade keeps them growing steadily onwards, without it they wilt and waste precious growing evergy recovering. Remove the cloth when they are established and big enough to handle it.
  • Brussels sprouts take ages to fatten up, so get seedlings in the ground this month.

Keep your garden fertility up

compost pile
  • Boost newly planted brassicas and leeks with weekly biological sprays.
  • Check in regularly with soil for moisture levels – this is the foundation of mineral exchange. Especially important for newly planted fruit trees.
  • Keep mulch topped up as it wears thin, especially around beans and passionfruits who enjoy a cool root run. Break off old, ratty foliage and lay it down, trim back rambunctious plants, slash down long grass in wild areas, forage for leaves, seaweed – whatever is in your hood and lightly sprinkle grass clippings – use what you got my friends.
  • Make compost. Every month without fail! A new, easy peasy compost pile will keep you going.

Find garlic seed

garlic drying

My darling friends – it’s no good coming to me in May or June asking where to get garlic seed, by then all the good stuff has sold out. Start the hunt now! Mid January brings cured garlic to the farmers markets, use this for planting. For good quality, heritage garlic seed get on the email lists at Sethas Seeds or Country Trading.

Manage pests + weeds for peace of mind

shield bugs in berries

Little pest and weed infestations are a doddle.

Do yourself the biggest of favours and keep a daily eye on things to avoid overwhelming, and quite frankly depressing infestations. Don’t under estimate the power of a daily wander and bug squash. Especially important on young brassica seedlings – keep on top of those cabbage white caterpillars! If you have insect mesh in the cupboard, covering them is the easiest way.

A few fruity bits

laterals coming off
  • Trim your espaliers as they do another shoot up
  • Trim off strawberry runners to keep your strawberry plants energised. You can of course pot these up.
  • Feed citrus and thin fruits on young trees.
  • Pluck fruits off 1 or 2 year old Avocado trees. It takes alot of carbs to produce flowers and new leaf buds – a big ask for a little tree. At the same time give it a feed with a full spectrum mineral fertiliser. Let your young Avo put its mojo into new shoots instead of fruits, to build a strong canopy.

Comments

  1. Hi there – this year I want to plant broad beans and peas over winter to get an earlier start in the spring. We are in the Otaki area. When do you recommend planting my seeds ? I am going to use jiffi pots as it is easier for me to manage the water issues if I do it that way. I am itching to get going ….

    • Hi Victoria, probably a bit early for both these things although if the summer never gets hot you’ll be fine. A huge part of learning what works when is just to do it and see what happens. I start sowing broadys and peas in Autumn. If you get my newsletter every month there is always monthly info about what I’m sowing and planting. But dont let what I’m doing stop you playing with other ideas 🙂 Kath

  2. Hi Kath, wonder if you can help me with my fruit trees as I am at a complete loss. We planted around 30 fruits trees (pip and stone) when we first moved to West Melton 6 years ago but have had very limited success with the stone fruit. The Plumcot is always the first to flower in the spring with a magnificent display of blossom and the promise of hundreds of fruit. But every year every single blossom drops off. I have other plums (Elephant Heart, Santa Rosa) which I thought would pollinate it, and we have irrigation set up to ensure (what I hope is) a decent drink. And I have a 3 year old comfrey planted under her and she still won’t produce. The quince, apricots and nectarines are also very hit and miss. I’ve yet to have a glut. I’d love a glut. 😊
    The other issue I have is what looks like rust on the same vege plants every time I plant them, namely celery, chives and garlic, sometimes silver beet.. Is this some sort of soil depletion?
    Thanks for any advice you can offer.
    Jo

    • Hi Jo,
      I wonder does the blossom drop off or blow off?
      Both Santa Rosa and Elephant heart should pollinate your Plumcot (and each other), as they are Japanese plums. My first thought is your trees have only just come into their prime – depending on how big they were at planting and how fast they’ve grown as to when they hit their straps … some where in that 5 – 7 year phase. So perhaps give it another year.
      Second thought is that are you sure the Santa Rosa and Elephant Heart are true to type. Check the fruit and identify it positively – it does happen that trees get mis- labelled in the grafting or packing process.
      Apart from pollenizers, productive trees or otherwise stem from many varied things. Main things making the difference to fruit tree success are
      variety that matches your climate – very important here. For example, if frost hits your place in spring then early flowering varieties like plumcots and apricots will suffer. Nectarines need free drainage and warmth to do well – think Hawkes Bay – perhaps your climate doesn’t suit them? also each variety has it quirks so some tend to biennial bearing for instance – its worth it to research each variety and learn all these little details. The better a variety suits your soil/climate the better it performs
      weather – different seasons bring different results eg hot, dry spring or wet spring aren’t the best for pollination. Also if trees in the path of prevailing wind that’ll impact pollination too
      bees – gotta have them
      soil health – feeding with full spectrum mineral fert supports flower/fruits as opposed to nitrogen like manures that support foliage
      soil moisture – free drainage is really important here as is steady supply of moisture from flowering, any drying out during this time impacts
      pruning – what a difference keeping your trees thinned for fresh growth and fruit spur development makes

      hopefully one of these things solves your problem, good luck with the glut 🙂

      And as for rust that’s environmental – airflow is important, hygiene too – not recycling rusty foliage and as for nutrition – back to mineral ferts as opposed to rich nitrogen ones.

      best K

  3. Joanne McGregor says

    Hi Kath, thanks so much for your words of wisdom. I hadn’t thought of investigating the specific varieties so will do that first. I don’t know if the Santa Rosa or Elephant are true as haven’t had a single plum from them yet! Perhaps they are still too young. If all else fails I’ll threaten them like I did with the pear – told it I’d give it one more year to produce or else, and ouila! it’s laden this year. 🙂
    Thanks and happy gardening.

    • I’ve learnt big time that the bees can’t do anything with damp pollen. So all that beautiful spring blossom usually goes nowhere on my early fruit trees

  4. Hi Keith,
    I got beautiful huge garlic from a farm. Is it a good time to plant them? I’m a bit confused…
    Cheers, and happy New year!!
    Keren

  5. Hi Kath.
    Just been reading your book, Organic Gardening Calendar. You mention growing cut and come again cabbage. With just the two of us at home most of the time, we don’t eat a full cabbage and while the waste goes back into the compost I still feel a bit guilty. What cabbages do you use for cut ad come again? Also have a small garden so this type of cabbage would be very useful.

    Anne

    • Collard greens I’m talking about there Anne – a great cabbage for 2. As is kale, bok choy and all the asian greens and the little red express red cabbage.

  6. Lydia Gulgec says

    Hi Kath, I am having a terrible tomato season, flowers are dropping off my plants without fruit setting, I live on the west coast and it’s been extremely wet and not massively warm , they are in a covered garden…..is there any way to save them or do you think they are a lost cause this season? Thanks

    • Such an un-summery summer Lydia! I feel your pain. Flowers will drop in extreme conditions … too wet and too cold will do it for sure. I’d leave the plants in, but find a way to improve their life and protect them – deep mulch will help heaps, a layer of comfrey or seaweed beneath the mulch another bonus, getting the excess water away too if possible, rig up a plastic sheet or stack of haybales or some such on the south side to hold the warmth of the sun when it comes + a weekly seaweed or comfrey feed over the plant and soil. If you find some healthy tomato seedlings, plant them into pots – not the soil – and tuck them somewhere really warm and sheltered… in 3 months fingers crossed you’ll bear fruit. Choose a hardy variety like moneymaker or russian red.
      All the best Kath

  7. Hi Kath I think you might be the mentor I’ve been seeking An older person previously a dedicated rose grower but now responsible for what was formerly a large attractive and extremely productive vege fruit and herb garden thanks to my wonderful and much mourned darling Now only one to feed not the whole neighbourhood and wanting still to have time for my roses guidance required I want veges through winter love cooking hate repition Have reduced the beds to 2 plus 3 covered with windloth and glass all raised no longer make compost there is a limit there are also a mix of plum peach nectarine persimmon fid feijoa currants strawbs and rhubarb to be tended Fortunately have found a helper who prunes but his help limited by budget So to eat this winter what should I be planting now do I need seeds or are plants from shops OK then there is the problem of not having 6 cabbage or 6 cauli all ready at the same time Sorry for the long explanation Hope its not too garbled Would value some easy to follow advice so don’t need to spend every daylight hour on the garden advice Yours is the first NZ site I have found that appeals fingers crossed

    • Hi there Liz. Heres a read that will help https://www.ediblebackyard.co.nz/grow-yourself-a-daily-winter-harvest/. There are many more on my website – just use the search bar at the top of each page and pop the word that best describes what you are looking for there in. Everything depends on where you live, what your soil is like and what the season rolls out. My best advice is to watch and learn from all you do and plant a little and often – try some from seed and some from seedling and record all you do and how it goes and over a few years you’ll work up exactly what you need. Nga mihi Kath

  8. Hi Kath, 2 Qs
    1) Do you think asparagus beds have a life span or just keep going forever? Mine has going been going for at least over 10 years and I feel like it is on its last legs despite giving it a fair amount of TLC.
    2) Do you think commercial seaweed concentrates are just as good as making garden tea yourself from collecting seaweed from the beach? I’ve just always been reluctant to buy because I’ve thought it would be as potent/ brimming with life force. Your thoughts?

    • My golden life rule is to follow your gut Gina. Agrisea seaweed is an excellent product- slow ferment to capture all the goodness but why not your own brew – intention is everything! You choose and whatever you do will be perfect.
      Yes asparagus like anyone of us becomes tired., though in good conditions I’d expect another 5 years from your bed, Depending on where you live and how summer plays out if its really rainy like my summers have been for the last few years – asparagus wont love it so much. Also how hard and long you pick it has a big impact too. Perhaps next spring give it a rest and at the same time get a new bed going. That way you’ll get a few spears form the old bed during the intial phase of the new one where you cannot pick it. Thats probs what I’d do.
      Enjoy, Kath

  9. I have a different sort of quandary. I have been squashing white butterfly caterpillars on my old kale plants when I noticed one caterpillar was sitting in the middle of what looked like a miniature blob of rice pudding. I looked it up in my butterfly reference book and discovered it was a pile of cocoons of a parasitic insect (apanteles glomeratus) imported for biocontrol of white cabbage butterflies! They lay their eggs in the caterpillars where they grow before emerging to pupate. Now I worry that if I squash any I could either destroy the larvae or give nowhere for the next generation to multiply. I’m also concerned that if I applied anything to the leaves to kill the caterpillars that it could harm any larvae growing inside. Fortunately I wasn’t intending to eat the kale myself any longer.

    • I love your careful observation. If it were me I’d leave it all well alone. You’ve set the scene in your garden and can sit back and watch nature do her thing. You may choose to intervene with squashing once in a blue moon when the caterpillars are perhaps nailing young seedlings – its a dance you see, give and take, and can only happen when the gardener is awake and watching … which is why observation is the keystone of the organic garden. Thanks for your story Marylin 🙂