When Christmas is over, our thoughts may still be far from spring. But planning and planting early in the new year are important if we want good crops later in the year. We need to think ahead. As soon as 2018 arrives, we can be busy preparing and sowing for the year ahead. While it is still far too cold and far to early to sow spring crops outside, inside our homes we can begin to sow as early as January. Here are some of the first things we should be thinking about in 2018:
Tomatoes and peppers are warm weather crops, so it may seem strange to be thinking about sowing them in January. But sowing in a warm spot or propagator early in the season will ensure that you have plants that are large and sturdy enough to plant out in your polytunnel when the weather does warm enough. Since tomatoes and peppers require relatively long growing seasons, the sooner you can sow them, the better.
While we will not be placing potatoes in the ground so soon, you can also think about ordering your first early potatoes for chitting early in the new year. Chitting potatoes will help to improve the early growth of the plants when they are sown and will help you get first earlies from your polytunnel earlier than ever.
Winter can bring rodents and other pests to your polytunnel as temperatures begin to rise in the early spring. Beans sown in later winter indoors can be transplanted to your polytunnel early in the year, especially if cloches are used to warm the soil and extend the season.
Early peas, too, can be sown indoors to be placed in the polytunnel later. There are plenty of early varieties to choose from which will do well under cloches early in the year. Seedlings will be easier to protect from rodents and other pests than seeds sown directly into the ground.
Onion sets can also be planted in your polytunnel very early in the spring. If a thick frost still threatens you can protect early planted crops with horticultural fleece, or by mulching them thickly as you would your overwintering crops.