January at Ravenscraig
Our Sessional Worker Jackie talks about what goes on at Ravenscraig Walled Garden in January in our latest blog.
January tends to be a quieter month for gardeners and the chance to do some reflection and planning for the rest of the year. At Ravenscraig in January we usually take time to chat and discuss with our volunteers, to get their views and ideas about what to sow and grow over the coming months.
At Ravenscraig we grow some old favourites every year – onions, garlic, courgettes, beans. We also like to try something new each year as an experiment to see if it works in our growing space – some things do, and some don’t but that’s all part of the fun and learning for our team. We have some perennial veg and herbs that grow back every year with little input from us including rhubarb, globe artichokes, sorrel, wild garlic and asparagus. All of these are great options for low-effort gardening.
Other than planning for the growing season, there are a few jobs that can be done in the garden in January. If the temperature warms up a little, this is the time to prune apple trees, pear trees and soft fruit bushes. Remove any dead, damaged or congested shoots or branches to improve the health of the plant. This is also the time to plant bare-root trees and bushes so that they are ready to grow in spring.
If you grow kale, leeks or swiss chard then you may still be harvesting from the garden this month although it can be interesting to dig up leeks from frozen ground!
In January we usually hold a Wassail event at Ravenscraig. This is a traditional celebration where we gather to celebrate the fruit trees and encourage an abundant harvest for the coming year. There are songs, stories, poems and lots of noise in the orchard followed by mulled cider and apple cake.
You may have some apples in storage from last year (or British apples are plentiful in the shops at the moment) and as we can’t hold our Wassail this year, we encourage you to try this recipe at home for the apple cake we serve at our Ravenscraig events. The cake is great served with mulled cider or coffee, but also good warm with custard on a cold, dark evening. This recipe makes a large cake; the quantities can easily be halved to suit.
Ravenscraig Apple Cake
Juice of half a lemon
225g butter or margarine
1 tsp vanilla extract
350g self-raising flour
1tsp baking powder
Demerara sugar to sprinkle on top
Heat the oven to 180 degrees C. Line a baking tin or small roasting tin (25 x 20 cm) with baking paper.
Place the butter (or margarine), sugar, eggs, vanilla, flour and baking powder in a large bowl and beat well until smooth. Spread half of the mixture into the baking tin.
Peel, core and thinly slice the apples then squeeze the lemon juice over them to prevent them from browning. Arrange half of them on top of the cake mixture.
Spread the remaining cake mix on top, followed by the remaining apples. Sprinkle the top with the demerara sugar.
Bake for around 40 minutes until the cake is golden and springy. Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes and then turn out and remove the baking paper. Cut into bars or squares.|