2022 gardening guide: what to do from January to June to make your summer bloom

You will notice the slight lengthening of the days even now, and the plants and birds certainly sense it: it’s not unusual to see buff-tailed bumblebees out and about on a mild January day. Snowdrops are flowering, green shoots are pushing up through the earth, catkins are unfurling and the garden is grinding back into life.

Key job
Planning. This is the time to sit down with your seed catalogues and dream of the crops and flowers you want to grow in the year ahead. Do you want armfuls of cornflowers, cosmos and zinnias? Juicy beefsteak tomatoes and crunchy mangetout? Time to put aside past failures and dream big.

In the kitchen and flower gardens
Buy and chit potatoes on a frost-free windowsill. Place forcers over rhubarb plants. Plant fruit trees – apples, pears, quinces and medlars – and prune existing ones. Sow sweet peas if you haven’t already. Plant roses when the ground is frost-free.
Don’t forget …
Chop, roast and eat up your winter squashes, perhaps sprinkled with crumbled feta, chopped mint and a squeeze of lime – there is not much to harvest in the garden now, so it’s time to get through your stored produce.

Falling on 1-2 February, the ancient Celtic celebration of Imbolc is a fire festival, associated with seeds and new life. The ancients felt an urge to get sowing, but resist – for now. Sowing too early leads to rotten seeds and disappointment; only aubergines and chillies will appreciate such an early start. Don’t let the odd mild day and spring-like feeling tempt you.

Key job
Preparation. Use this month to get yourself ready for sowing time. Wash old seed trays or buy new, and buy compost. Make neat piles and be ready to leap into action. Weed veg beds and cover with black or clear polythene to help the sun warm the soil.

In the kitchen and flower gardens
Sow chilli and aubergine seeds indoors, ideally in a heated propagator. Sow broad beans and hardy peas in pots in a sheltered spot outside or in a greenhouse. Lift, split and transplant large clumps of woodland bulbs such as snowdrops, bluebells and winter aconites, to propagate them. Order dahlia tubers. Plant lilies in pots.

Don’t forget …
Buy British-grown flowers for Valentine’s Day to support local businesses and reduce the number of flowers being flown in from around the world. Try Cornish Blooms and the Real Flower Company.

According to lore, if March comes in like a lion, it goes out like a lamb, which implies rather more predictable weather than we often get in March. Generally, winter starts to relent now. Daffodils pop up, and there is a soft haze of lime green over trees and hedgerows.

Key job
Finally, this month we can begin to sow in earnest. Pace yourself, sowing a couple of crops every few days, and don’t over sow. The soil is still cold, so sow in containers or a greenhouse for planting out later.

In the kitchen and flower gardens
Sow brussels sprouts, cabbages, celery, Florence fennel, lettuce, sprouting broccoli, peas, spinach, Swiss chard, carrots, turnips, beetroot and radishes – . Sow tender crops – tomatoes, cucumbers, winter squash, aubergines – indoors, ideally in a heated propagator, midway through the month. This is the perfect time to start an asparagus bed, using crowns. Other perennials will do well planted now, including rhubarb, strawberries and artichokes.

Don’t forget …
Wild garlic is up, and perfectly young and tender, and you’ll find it – by nose – in old woods. Pick bags of it and whiz up with toasted hazelnuts, hard goat’s cheese and olive oil to make a woodland pesto.

Frosts are still highly likely and nights are still cold. Good Friday (15 April) is the traditional day for planting out potatoes; 23 April, St George’s Day, heralds the start of the asparagus season.

Key job
You can start sowing direct this month, but protect new plants and seedlings with cloches. Harden plants off gradually when moving them from indoors to out: a few hours outside, then back in and so on.

In the kitchen and flower gardens
Plant out potatoes in trenches or in pots. Under cover, sow: french beans, runner beans, cabbages, cauliflowers, courgettes, cucumbers, Florence fennel, kale, winter squash and sweetcorn. Sow direct: lettuces, peas, rocket, summer purslane, corn salad, spinach, Swiss chard, carrots, beetroot, parsnip, turnip, leeks and spring onions. Harvest asparagus.

Pot up dahlia tubers and protect from frost and slugs. Sow half-hardies: snapdragon, zinnia, nicotiana, cleome, cosmos, tithonia, sunflowers. Plant out sweet peas with shrubby “pea sticks” or netting for them to scramble up.

Don’t forget …
Get out among the bluebell woods during their brief and glorious reign at the end of April. Check the National Trust for sites to visit (usually for a fee).

All of the plants I have teetering on windowsills can finally go into the ground. But beware that the “ice saints” (Saints Mamertus, Pancras and Servatius), whose feast days fall on 11, 12 and 13 May respectively – can herald a cold snap that can bring the final frosts of spring. The end of May will see a frenzy of planting out.

Key jobs
Planting out, watering and feeding.

In the kitchen and flower gardens
Pot chillies into their final pots. Sow coriander, chervil, dill and parsley direct into the ground under cloches. Sow basil in pots indoors. Earth up potatoes. Plant hanging baskets and window boxes with colourful bedding plants. Plant lilies and gladioli in pots. Pick bunches of fragrant lily of the valley to give to your loved ones on 1 May, which is the Fête du Muguet (lily of the valley day) in France. Water and feed.

Don’t forget …
Pick globe artichokes while they are still small and before their “choke” has formed. Peel away the harder dark green “petals” and pare off any leftover tough bits, then boil for 10 minutes or until a knife tip pierces them easily. Drain, quarter and eat with vinaigrette.

Summer arrives and the work switches from manic sowing and planting out to leisurely maintenance, perhaps wandering around the garden on a warm evening with a watering can in one hand and a glass of wine in the other.

Key jobs
Tending to veg, and enjoying its bounty. Enjoy the garden – you’ve set it up well for the rest of the year.

In the kitchen and flower gardens
Pinch out the side shoots of tomatoes, tie them up, and start feeding every week. Pick salad: lettuce, peas, broad beans, artichokes, asparagus and sorrel are all at their best. Strawberries are abundant and it is time to make the first jam of the year. Pick roses early and plunge them up to their necks in water for a few hours before arranging in big bunches with alchemilla leaves and heads of cow parsley.

Don’t forget …
Traditionally at midsummer, doors were hung with birch, fennel, lilies and wildflowers, food was laid out for neighbours, and fires and lamps were lit at dusk to keep burning throughout the shortest night.

Lia Leendertz is author of The Almanac: a Seasonal Guide to 2022 (Octopus,£12.99). To buy a copy for £11.99, including UK p&p, visit guardianbookshop.com

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