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Growth, planning & wildlife

What better way to shake off the post-Christmas and New Year lull than to get outside in the January garden? As the days gradually lengthen and plants begin to grow again, embrace the mid-winter chill, fill your lungs with fresh air and come alive. Dry sunny days afford an opportunity to recommence preparatory digging in the vegetable patch; prune any remaining fruit trees, roses and summer flowering shrubs such as buddleias and late clematis before the sap rises and the buds break; and give everything a good feed by digging in well rotted organic matter or sprinkling a balanced fertiliser on to the soil.

Now is the time to begin planning for the year ahead and order seed potatoes, onion sets and shallots. The potatoes can be chitted (allowed to sprout in a cool dry place) for a couple of weeks before planting from the end of February onwards. The onions and shallots will go in from mid-March to mid-April. When considering flowering annuals, bear in mind that sowing seeds gives you a greater range of options to grow something a little different. New introductions offer the potential for novel and exciting colour combinations, and in the case of vegetables variations on familiar flavours. Whether it’s an extra zingy yellow marigold or a dark purple carrot that holds its colour when cooked, there's always something new to try.

At a time of year when birds and wildlife require particular consideration and understanding, seize the opportunity to garden and plant as supportively as possible. It's useful to draw inspiration from the gathering dawn chorus, as birds busily mark their territory and look for food. They will be benefitting from insects that have found shelter in dwindling leaves, stems and flower seed heads that have been left in place from last year. It's still a good idea to add more food, and leave out chopped apples and fruit to help them survive cold nights. Add nest boxes ahead of when they'll be needed and keep bird baths clean and free of ice. Also, finish off hedge trimming now, well before fledgling season begins from March onwards.


With Burns Night coming up on the 25th why not celebrate with a vegetarian haggis that uses some of last year's stored produce.


  • 1 medium onion

  • 1 carrot

  • 6 medium mushrooms

  • 75gm red lentils

  • 45 gm mashed borlotti beans

  • 50 gm rolled oats

  • 50 gm buckwheat

  • 30 gm ground hazelnuts

  • 45 gm ground almonds

  • 50 gm vegetarian suet

  • 2 tbsp oil

  • 5 gm black pepper

  • 250 ml vegetable stock

  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

  • Dash soy sauce

  • 1 vegetable stock cube


  • Finely chop and fry the onion, carrot and mushrooms in a pan until tender.

  • Cook the lentils in the stock and reduce the liquid by half.

  • Add the cooked lentils, borlotti beans, hazelnuts and almonds to the onion mixture.

  • Gently fry the buckwheat and rolled oats for a few minutes, then add to the other mixture with the soy sauce, lemon juice, suet, vegetable stock cube and black pepper simmer for a few minutes until the liquid begins to disappear.

  • Pour into an oven proof dish and stand for 20 minutes then cook in a medium oven for 30 minutes.

  • Serve and enjoy!

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