The Allotment Garden & Honeybees in January
Getting a head start on this year’s gardening projects has been difficult this month. While occasional breaks in the wind and rain have given windows of opportunity, most of the time it’s been far too miserable to want to do anything outdoors. That’s alright though. It’s just January and there’s plenty of time to get prepared for the growing season.
The one gardening fix that I always get this time of the year is through early flowering bulbs. You create the containers in autumn and then wait until you start to see green shoots pushing up through the gravel layer in winter. When this happens I move the planters near the door so that I can watch as they grow and bloom into the first flowers of spring. Today I spotted the very first Snowdrop!
Primroses are another great flower for January. If you have them growing in the garden, pot a few plants up and put them in a visible place like a door or window sill. They seem to bloom all winter long here on the Isle of Man and add a splash of colour to this most bleak of months. When it warms up, replant them in the garden where they’ll continue to flower.
Speaking of bleak, my allotment isn’t the most fun to be in at the moment. Storms have continued to dump rain over Britain and so far there have been two floods at our site. I walked across our footbridge yesterday to discover that a torrent had spilled over from the trickle that usually flows there. It tore through the grass and down the hill, taking the topsoil from a friend’s plot with it.
My plot itself is very soggy but when it dries up I’ll begin moving fruit bushes up from the bottom plot and situating them in their new homes. I grow raspberries, thornless blackberries, red-currants, blueberries, and gooseberries. I also have a new-ish fruit bush that seems like a cross between a gooseberry and a blackcurrant and I think it’s called a Jostaberry. Another allotmenteer gave me a small plant last year but it hasn’t yet cropped.
Back at home I’ve moved the garlic out of the cold frame to toughen it up in the breeze while still being protected by a wall. Those will need to be planted into the allotment before it warms up but I’m going to wait until the rains subside before I even think about risking their little green lives.
Way back last September the strawberry plants in my two Strawberry Pallet Planters started feeling a bit pent up. Masses of ‘Runners’ spread out from the plants inside with each thin vine seeking new soil to colonise. I pinned some of these runners down in planters filled with compost and over the winter they’ve taken root.
After pulling them up and repotting them over the weekend I think I have about two dozen new strawberry plants. The only question is, which one of them will be red strawberries and which one of them will be white? I have both growing in the containers and I couldn’t mark which was which since I planted them without labeling which was which. I’ll follow up on that when these new plants fruit.
As for beekeeping, I don’t plan on opening either of my two remaining hives until next month. It’s just too cold and windy and I’m pretty sure they’ll have enough stores to tide them over until a sunnier day. Instead I’ve been cleaning out the boxes that one of my failed colonies lived in and I’ll be painting it to get it ready for new bees this year. I’ve also had the thought of naming my hives – a friend proposed the idea to me some time ago but I think now is the time to give them their own personalities. The ‘White hive’ and ‘Green hive’ are just so lacking in personality.
Since I’d like to eventually have four hives I’m going to name them after their Queens. The Queen of Hearts, Spades, Diamonds, and Clubs. Obviously the Queen in the white hive is going to be one of the less lovely of these. I’m thinking they’ll be the Spades since they’ve speared me many times with their aggressive little stingers.
Speaking of them, they’re doing just fine. I visited them yesterday afternoon to adjust the mouse-guard on their entrance. The last time I tried to pin it on they chased me off – I wasn’t wearing a full beekeeping suit at the time. I worked quickly to finish the job but not before stopping to watch for a few minutes. Even though it’s cold and dreary outside there were bees flying out and buzzing their way off into the cold. Where they were heading, who knows, but it just goes to show that it’s not just us humans who might be feeling a bit of cabin fever these days.
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