In Roman mythology Janus was the two-faced who was guardian of gateways and god of beginnings. Like Janus the gardener in the month of January is looking to the past year’s experiences while planning the year to come. Although there are still garden activities both indoors and out, most of the gardeners attention will be focused on master-minding the New Year’s garden.
One of last month’s tasks was to take notes on last season as well as getting garden catalogues. If you have done this already you are already well on your way to planning next years garden. In ornamental beds you will be considering gaps left behind by lost plants or by plants you are waiting to fill out. Annuals including ornamental vegetables like Swiss chard and tri-color peppers can be grown in these spaces as a stopgap measure. You may also need to move some plants that just didn’t meet your expectations where they were located. You might even be considering expanding the empire and adding some new beds. Finding a good book or taking a class on garden design might be useful for those new to garden planning.
For vegetable garden areas you will want to draw up a simple garden plan that shows where plants were grown last year. In the New Year plan you should rotate the crops so plants in the same family are not growing in the same area year after year. Some vegetable families that should be rotated are Nightshade (tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, potatoes), Brassica (cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, turnips, kohlrabi). This helps with disease problems as well with soil fertility management. Making a map for each part of the season will help you get the most out of the space you have. This will help you plant successions of vegetables. So as the peas are harvested in the spring, a crop of carrots can replace them. Don’t forget to plan for your winter garden which will be started in the middle to the end of the summer and can include cool weather crops like Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, leeks and Swiss chard.
Sprouting seeds to eat
If January has found you missing the freshness of produce from your own garden you may want to try sprouting you own seeds. Over one-third of our diets come from seeds. The two major sources are wheat and rice. Most plants genetic survival is wrapped up in a seed. Therefore seeds are the repository of high concentration of fats, carbohydrates, proteins and vitamins. But when seeds are sprouted, even more nutrients are released from the seed. The stored carbohydrates are converted to proteins and vitamins. There are so many delicious sprouted seeds to choose from. You can sprout the well-known alfalfa seeds or try something more exotic like fenugreek seed. Most people think of sprouts as an addition to salads or sandwiches but they can also be used in stews, casseroles, breads or cooked as a side dish like other vegetables. There are seed sprouting paraphernalia found in health food stores and in some seed catalogs. But the simplest way to sprout them is with a clean mason jar with cheesecloth held over the mouth with a rubber band or open canning lid (with the centerpiece left off). Soak the seeds overnight in lukewarm water. Then strain out the water through the cheese cloth. Rinse the seeds three times a day and keep the sprouts moist but not submerged in water. They need both air circulation and moisture to sprout properly In a few days to a week you will have sprouts. You can buy seeds at health food stores, seed catalogs, or even in your local supermarket (like lentils or chickpeas). Just be sure they have not been chemically treated with fungicides. Here is a list of seeds you can sprout: alfalfa, barley, broccoli, buckwheat, cress, chickpeas (also called ceci or garbanzo), fenugreek, flax, lentils, lettuce, lima bean, millet, mung bean, pinto bean, pumpkin, radish, soy bean, sunflower, and wheat.
- Plant seeds indoors of perennials now so they will bloom this year. Bee Balm (Monarda), Carnation/Pinks (Dianthus), Yarrow (Achillea), Wallflowers, Lavender, Violets (Viola), and Dahlias.
- Plant seeds of some slow to bloom annuals like Geraniums (Pelargonium) ageratum, Flowering Tobacco, petunias and Wax Begonias.
- It is still a good time to take evergreen and hardwood cuttings. Dip them in a rooting hormone before putting the in pots filled with rooting media and place in a coldframe for the winter. Roots should form by spring.
- Monitor trees for winter damage and disease. Prune to healthy wood using proper pruning techniques.
- There is still time to apply mulch. 2-3 inches is sufficient in most cases.
- Keep an eye on cool weather weeds, like shotweed. Mulching as suggested above would help control winter weeds as would light cultivation of the soil surface with appropriate cultivating tools.
- Start seeds of indoor plants. Although many houseplants are propagated asexually by cuttings, layering or dividing many can be grown from seed. Coleus, begonias, gloxinia, cacti and succulents are all good candidates for starting from seed.
- Cut Christmas trees. Recycle the branches of your Christmas tree. Remove the branches and use them as a protective barrier for frost sensitive plants in your garden. Later as the needles fall off they can be used as pea brush to support your peas.
- Live Christmas trees – can be transplanted into their permanent location in the garden.
- Continue forcing bulbs like amaryllis and paperwhite narcissus. You can also start bringing inside pots of bulbs left outdoors for their cold dormancy treatment. Bring in crocus first then hyacinths, daffodils and tulips for a spring preview.
No immediate threats this month. Besides who wants to go slug hunting in January? But now is a good time to plan for next season! There are many great Pest & Disease Control Products for home owners that are safe and effective. Of course the first line of defense is a healthy well maintained garden. Sometimes more is needed. The next step is to try and prevent the pest from gaining access to the plant with Physical & Mechanical Controls. Then go after the pests directly with Organic Pesticides and Biological Controls. No need to get out the elephant gun when a pea-shooter will do!
Vegetables, Herbs & Fruit