Happy New Year, JANUARY 2013!
To Your Outstanding Health!
January – Lots of rain, and, Baby, it’s been cold outside!
Here are some images I took on our frosty Winter Solstice morning! And these were taken Christmas morning when I went over to see how the frosted plants had done! Frost Watch! This is the time to look at your weather predictions, even daily! Down near 32 degrees, grab your cheap sheets you got at the thrift shop, spare beach towels, old blankies, and cover your plants mid afternoon if possible! For things to know about cold weather and plants, and more tips on how to save your plants, click here!
With all the rains we have had, I hope Santa brought you some pretty or good hardworking garden boots! How nice to be able to step out of them at your door, rinse them off, leave the mud outside, then jump back in them again! Great Rain Tips! Please click here! Mulch your lettuces lightly to keep them from getting mud splattered. When the rain is done, pull the mulch back so the sun will warm the ground up.
Forgive me. Both November and December I forgot to remind you to start your pepper seeds. Super oops. If you didn’t then, start your pepper seeds NOW to get them in the ground in March! Believe it! That’s what commercial growers do. Peppers are slow little devils. They teach you patience. Nature is.
This is bare root time – plants without soil on their roots! For us SoCal gardeners that’s cane berry bushes, deciduous fruit trees, strawberries, artichokes, asparagus, short day onions. Think twice about horseradish. It’s invasive as all get out! If you do it, confine it to a raised bed or an area where it will run out of water. Rhubarb, though totally tasty in several combinations, ie strawberry/rhubarb pie, has poisonous leaves! That means to dogs, small children and unknowing people. Either fence it off, or don’t grow it. I don’t recommend it in community gardens because we can’t assure people’s/children’s safety. Bare root planting is strictly a January thing. February is too late.
It’s Lettuce month! It germinates quicker at theses cooler temps! Grow special ones you can’t get at the store, or even the Farmers’ Market! They like a soil mix of well aged compost, organic veggie fertilizers, chicken manure. Pay special attention to what the seed packet says about planting depth. Either they go right on at soil surface, barely covered 1/8 inch, pat them in, OR 1/4 inch deep. That small difference is life or death for them. Water gently with a watering can, or use the mist setting on your sprayer. Keep the bed moist. That might mean watering even twice daily! If it is going to rain heavily, cover the bed so the seeds don’t wash away or get buried too deeply. Slug and snail cocktails (Sluggo or cheaper store brand products) make sense or your seedlings may vanish overnight. If your seeds just don’t germinate, be sure your seed is fresh. Feed the bed once a week – fish & kelp works wonders, quick uptake. Fast growth keeps your lettuce sweet; slow growth is bitter! Eat the younglings you thin from the patch, or transplant them. Pluck those larger lower leaves for robust winter salads! Plant another patch in 2 weeks to a month to keep a steady supply!
As you harvest your winter veggies, keep planting, from seeds or transplants. Transplants will speed things up by a good 6 weeks if you can find them. Your winter veggies are broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, lettuce, parsley, peas, chard. Seeds of beets, carrots, lettuce, peas, radish, turnips, do well. Pop in some short-day onions. Choose varieties with less days to maturity, so you will have room for upcoming spring planting.
Remember, harvest your cabbages by cutting them off close to the bottom of the head, leaving the bottom leaves. New smaller cabbages will grow from those axils at the stem/leaf junctions. You might get as many as four babies! Do the same with lettuces! Once you harvest your main broccoli head, let the side shoots form mini broccolettes! The further down the stalk you cut, the fewer but fatter your side branches.
The SideDress Dance continues – if you harvest, you fertilize. That’s a good rule of thumb. Sprinkle some fertilizer or drizzle your favorite liquid mix, especially before a rain. Dig it in lightly, but not in a circle. You don’t want to break all the tiny rootlets that spread out at the surface from your plant. So do it on a couple sides max. Dig it in a bit so the N (Nitrogen) doesn’t just float away into the air…. Use half strength of summer feedings to avoid a lot of tender growth a frost would take.
Strawberries! Here’s the word on sidedressing from a grower: Fertilizer [like manures] should be applied at least three times each year; apply the first time when new growth starts (late January or early February, or early April), the second in mid-May and final application in mid-July to mid-September. Nitrogen applications should be heaviest in autumn to encourage the production of large crowns, and lowest in spring as nitrogen has adverse effects on fruit quality. Avoid heavy nitrogen applications just before or during the heavy fruiting period. You want fruit, not just leaves!
If you tossed wildflower seeds, keep their beds moist.
Start a garden journal, especially enter your genius thoughts! Domestic harmony? Clean up your shed/working space, or build one. Build a greenhouse! Build your raised beds – that’s with frames if you want frames. As plants finish, start souping up your soil for bountiful spring planting for abundant summer harvests! Lay in the compost, manures. And, as always, install gopher barriers, especially now with the rain softened soil!
Plan your spread – where will your taller plants go, the big tomatoes? Will your shorter crops go under the tall ones or have their own separate beds?
Go crazy, order seeds! Order fall seeds now too so they won’t be sold out later on. If you have any spare ground, plant some jicamas there! Start looking for those seeds now – check with your Latino gardener friends. Fresh jicama is amazing! Delicately crisp and super juicy! No comparison to store bought. Planning on trying tomato grafting for three times the growth?! Don’t forget to get your Maxifort tomato seeds from Johnny’s Selected Seeds, and some Japanese grafting pins!