Hello and welcome to The Compost Bin. I'm Compostwoman and I live with my family in rural Herefordshire. We have nearly four acres of garden and woodland, all managed organically and to Permaculture principles, which we share with Chickens, Cats and assorted wildlife. We also grow a lot of our own food, run courses in all sorts of things and make a lot of compost!

I am a Master Composter and have spent more than a decade as a volunteer Community Compost adviser with Garden Organic and my local Council.
I'm a self employed Environmental Educator so I run workshops and events where I talk about compost, veg growing, chicken keeping, cooking, preserving and sustainable living. I also run crafts workshops and Forest School/outdoor play sessions in our wood.

We try to live a more self sufficient lifestyle here, as best we can, while still having a comfortable life and lots of fun.

To learn more about us click on the About Compostwoman tab and remember to click on the photos to make them full size!

Tuesday 8 January 2013

Things to do in the garden in Dec/January

These are some of the jobs I do in the garden in Dec/Jan - thanks to Garden Organic for sending me their list which reminded me I had this post to publish. I have added in a few of their tips as well, as they seemed good ideas ( as always with Garden Organic advice)

In the Garden
  • Move pots of herbs, ornamental plants etc inside shelter if you can, if not, wrap with pots bubble wrap and secure, cover plant with horticultural fleece.
  • If you grew Celery, lift what you need and cover the plants in the ground with a thick layer of straw to protect them from winter frost.
  • If very cold weather is forecast, lift Parsnips, Carrots, Leeks before the ground freezes. and store in a cool place.  Pick Spinach and harvest Celeriac as these will not survive a hard frost. Fleece plants left in the ground for protection.
  • Plant Garlic if the weather is mild enough. Garlic needs a period of cold weather to grow well so now is the time to get those cloves in!

  • Protect your Worms! Wrap up your wormery or move it into shelter.

  • Stake and earth up Brussels sprout plants, PSB plants and also larger Kale plants that are at risk of blowing over in harsh weather. Loose soil around the roots leads to Brussels sprouts not hearting up properly. Kales and PSBs can fall over if blown around.
  • Ensure brassicas and any other vulnerable crops are protected from pigeons by using fleece. Build a frame over the crop and line it with fleece to keep them off.
  • Make room for a new Compost bin. You can NEVER make too much compost, in my opinion!

  •  But, do not add any material infected with soil borne diseases to your compost heap when doing the final clean up. This will put a stop to the spread of disease through your compost the following year.

  • Mulch bare beds with last year’s leaf mould. If you’ve only got leaves from this season they can be used as a mulch. Rake them back before sowing and put them into a bag or compost bin to continue to compost down.
 Inside the house/in the polytunnel/greenhouse/store

  • You can make early sowings in pots and trays in January. I sow Lettuce, Rocket, Mizuma, Spicy greens, round varieties of Carrots, Salad onions and Radish for harvesting from the pots. I also plant Summer cabbage, Chard, Spinach for transplanting later on.   They will all need a bright, cool location to keep them safe until they can be planted out under cloches or in cold frames in February.
  • You can sow greenhouse tomatoes, for growing on in a heated greenhouse, as early as January. Tomato cultivars are available specifically for growing under cover, for example, Shirley F1 (medium size) and F1 Aromata (large). I grow early varieties such as Salt Spring Sunrise, Roma and Latah as well as Shirley in my Polytunnel, which give me fruit in early June well before other varieties are ripening.
  • Sow onions in January, as onions from seed need a long growing season. Raise in modules on a warm windowsill for planting out in March. Mine go into the Polytunnel for a month or so before planting out.
  • I start my Broad Beans in paper toilet roll tubes in Jan, ready to plant out under a cloche in the veg garden in March. I do not over winter mine as it does not work here! Again these start on a warm windowsil then are moved into the Polytunnel.
  • Wash all your pots, trays etc with hot soapy water and put them to dry in the sunlight if possible. If they can't be washed give them a good clean with a stiff bristled brush. This will reduce pests and diseases being passed on in the new growing season.
  •  When you’ve got your seed potatoes, put them in a light, cool, frost-free spot and leave them to sprout. This is known as chitting. Egg boxes make good chitting trays so start saving them now.
  • Check stored crops regularly. Remove immediately anything showing signs of decay, to prevent rots from spreading. Some varieties of potato will begin to sprout sooner than others – so if one variety shows signs of sprouting, eat it up quickly.

  • Need more space? How about finding out about an Allotment? Now is a good time to get you name on a list! Or register for Landshare.
  •  One of my favourite jobs at this time of year - check over the seed packets! Before I buy any new seed I go through all the packets to see what I have and what I actually really NEED to buy. I also weed out the less successful varieties or those which we dod not like or which did not do very well. Apart from parsnips, most seed will keep for at least a year. If you are not sure if the seed is still viable sprinkle a few seeds on a bit of damp paper and see if it germinates. I do this with my parsnip seed to see if it is still ok even though it is last year's seed.
  • If you are planning your veg plot for next season don’t forget to use a crop rotation.
  • Start collecting plastic bottles! I find 5 l water bottles ( I collect them from a friend) make excellent individual  cloches and plastic milk bottles, bottom cut off and upended, make excellent watering devices when buried top down in the soil next to large , thirsty plants such as Courgettes.

  • What about investigating  Garden Organic membership ?
Fruit trees/bushes.
  • Take off any ‘mummified’ fruits left on the trees as they can provide a source of infection later in the year.
  • Complete picking very late-maturing apples, before the hard frosts come.
  • As with herb pots, insulate pots of container-grown fruit to protect roots from the worst of the winter weather.
  • Plant new fruit bushes, trees and canes when the soil conditions are suitable. If the soil is too wet heel (temporarily plant) the plants in at a 45-degree angle. If the soil is frozen, keep the plants in a frost-free shed or garage, in their loosened packing material, till the ground defrosts.

    There are lots of other things to do, but all these jobs will keep me going for a few weeks - assuming the ground dries out enough to actually walk on.


  1. Thanks for the timely reminders, lots of those things on my to do list - once everything stops being so soggy.

  2. I found this post very useful for my own plans. January is definitely a month for "to do" lists and hopefully the veg patch will start to dry out at last (although, of course, there is this expected "cold snap" to come...)


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