Some notes on conditions and the local climate.
Despite being situated in east central Scotland, Dalgety Bay manages to enjoy a relatively mild climate. This is mostly due to the proximity to the river Forth and the low lying ground (all under 150 ft ASL). Where this is most noticable is in the timing of the seasons and the variety of tender plants that are successfully grown.
Never-the-less most of the Bay is quite exposed to the South, South East and West and through wind-chill effects, it can at times get as cold as any other low-lying part of Scotland. Wind strength is another factor and strong winds and fierce gales are common, as is salt laden air.
For success with tender plants therefore, try to take advantage of what shelter is available and use the heat stored in house and boundary walls to create a milder microclimate for your plants. Remember also that fences, when they can be made to stay up, also provide good wind breaks.
Dalgety Bay has a variety of soil types. The underlying subsoil is clay on limestone although some gardens are almost all sand below the top soil.
Acid loving plants tend to grow well, as evidenced by the number of conifers and heathers planted. Care must be taken with lime loving plants, like pinks. But in order to best appreciate your own growing conditions, you should have your soil tested. This can be accurately determined by any of the professional horticultural societies who normally offer this service for a fee. It may also be achieved (less accurately) by using a kit which is available from any garden centre. The acidity or alkalinity of your soil can then be adjusted by top dressing or digging-in the appropriate material.
It is also a good idea to see what is growing well in other gardens in the Bay. You can also ask for advice on which plants to grow from other Society members, or from any of the local garden centres.
January does not normally have the kind of weather that often tempts you out into the garden. Look out for the few bright sunny days and make the most of them. The soil is probably getting too waterlogged to be digging but it’s a good time to plant fruit trees, bushes and asparagus crowns. It’s a great month for sitting indoors with a hot drink and planning what you are going to grow this year and where. If you’ve ever ordered seeds before you’ve probably got a few seed catalogues you can look through. Grow your favourites but maybe try something new this year too. If you’ve got a greenhouse and want an early start then you can look at planting chilli and tomato seeds indoors towards the end of the month.
Add bulk and nutrients to your soil. You don’t have to dig it in yet, just spread it over the soil and the weather and worms will do some of the work for you.
Both these crops benefit from a long growing season. Start them off indoors towards the end of the month to give them a flying start.
There are still a lot of vegetables that can be picked, mostly roots and brassicas, including leeks, scorzonera, celeriac, parsnips, brussel sprouts, kale, cabbage, cauliflower, swede and turnip.
Don’t be tempted to dig heavy waterlogged soil. It won’t be enjoyable and you can easily destroy the soil structure. Don’t dig if the soil sticks to your boots as you walk across. Wait until drier weather. There is also very reliable information about never having to dig soil at all, just weed, mulch, plant and harvest, with no need to use a spade.
If you’ve already got your seed potatoes (many are in the garden centres now) then chit them in old egg boxes. Keep in the cool, light (but not direct sunlight) and dry. A shed window is ideal.
Anything left in the garden will probably have a few slugs curled up beneath it. Lift any pots, buckets and planks, and remove all dead leaves and plant debris. Start the year with as few slugs as possible.
Snap and bend one of the leaves over the cauliflower head to protect it from frosts. This will also help keep the florets white.
Take a trip to your local garden centre or buy your seeds online. January is a good month to think about what you will be growing this year, and any supplies you will be needing, such as seeding compost, plants pots and trays. Be prepared so that you are ready to go.
Salad leaves can be grown undercover, either in the house or in a greenhouse. They grow more slowly than in spring but will still give you lovely fresh leaves. Cress is a great crop to grow in the winter and livens up all kinds of sandwiches.
All bare-rooted fruit trees and bushes can be planted this month, as long as the ground is not frozen. They need to be planted whilst dormant.
Make sure all stakes and supports are strong and doing their job. Winter storms can often weaken them.
If you have not done so already, cut all autumn fruiting raspberry canes to about 3cm (1in) above soil level.
Chop up a few of the branches of your Christmas tree and put them around the base of blueberry plants. This helps to keep the soil acidic.
Adding oxygen helps to keep the bacteria in your compost working, creating compost more quickly.
Looking through the seed catalogues can be very enjoyable. There’s just so much choice out there. Go for your old favourites or try some new varieties.
If you bought a potted or rooted Christmas tree, and you’ve got space in your garden, then plant it outside. Hopefully it will survive to see another Christmas next year.
As the weather gets colder, birds find it increasingly difficult to find food. Put out plenty of seed, nuts and fresh water for them each day. They will help eat your pests in the spring and summer.