It’s true this year for Christmas my intensely insightful and loving sister presented me with my very own garden journal. So here it is, every month I’ll post a unique or abnormally insightful entry from my Garden Journal just for you, and I’ll include a list of To Do items for that month that will help you follow my progress this year. This is my first entry and since winter is still holding it’s terrible grip on all my green friends, I’m looking forward to warmer days and planning for a productive growing season. Let’s see if I can get all the big ideas turned into realities between April and September.
Let’s start off with what I’ve been doing all this winter long. First things first, winter is a gardeners time to catch up on all the things a green thumb doesn’t get to throughout the warmer months. Like trimming trees, organizing the workshop, cleaning out the tool boxes and fixing up all the broken items that accumulate through the summer. My most enjoyable projects were getting my workshop up and running, organization was a huge problem but now I can actually hand you a screw driver if you asked for one. Another fun thing to do in the winter is repair the broken items that you can’t get to when planting and harvesting. Cleaning out and repairing birdhouses is one thing I do, I’ve also worked on improving my cold frames, I have big plans for those when the seedlings go in. Finally I’ve gotten my little potting station cleaned up and a little more organized, I might actually get to pot some plants this year somewhere other than sitting on the porch.
One of the greatest things a gardener can do to help give our little plants a good start is documentation. Weather is key and each and every home is it’s own micro-climate, why you could have multiple climates even around your back yard. Now you can take this way to far, or not do it nearly enough. Simple is usually right when it comes to plants so just keeping good notes on what the ‘official’ temperature was in your area, vs what the temperature actually was at your home. You might find that your garden runs 3-5 degrees warmer or cooler than the ‘official’ temperature. And things like dryer exhaust vents and radiant heat can drastically affect how a plant will do in certain areas. So one of my big goals this year is to document highs and lows at least once a week through the entire year, then I can compare actual vs official temperatures per week. This will help me better plan my garden in years to come, and know what plants are more likely to freeze or not through the winter.
Soil development is another thing that can start at any time, but I definitely work on composting and soil through the winter, cover crops are a big help in this and I plan on using them more in the future. Australian Winter Peas are the cover crop of choice for myself and others in my area. A cover crop is a plant that actually feeds the soil instead of depleting it, they also help in weed control through the winter, when grass and other faster growing and longer growing plants will try to get a foothold in your garden and flower beds. Cover crops shade out weeds and keep a good full foliage through the winter, they aren’t always the prettiest of plants but they are green vs bare dirt, or a half ton of mulch. You wouldn’t put a cover crop down now but mine is finishing up and before I plant I’ll till the cover crop right into the soil and let it rot for a week or so. This adds more organic matter to the soil which is never a bad thing. Another way to build up the soil in an area, is to dump your compost-able materials right on the ground, then when you’ve got about a half inch or so of compost cover it with three inches of straw. Do this about three weeks before you’re going to till and plant, water it occasionally to help decomposition then till the whole mess, straw and all, into the ground. The compost and straw will continue to decompose through the spring adding organic matter to the soil and feeding your plants. Be careful to make sure to think through this method, in town this may not work do to the scent, or unpleasing look of a pile of compost in one corner of your back yard. What is nice about this method is that it can be put into action immediately, and you can see results this summer.
A green house is another big dream of mine, and looking at the amount of pots I brought in this winter it’s going to need to be built sooner than later. Winter is a great time to take on these types of projects, with all the planting and harvesting done for the year, or like me if it hasn’t started yet, now is the time to get all those support items together, compost piles can be started now, green houses built, raised beds built and filled, cold frames prepared and seedlings started in kitchen windows. If you’ve looked around lately you’ll notice that the seed displays at your local hardware and lawn and garden stores are already up and ready for a fresh group of young farmers. All the fun of gardening is in the processes, preparing soil, building beds, composting, and then planting, nurturing and harvesting a wonderful crop of veggies or beautiful fresh cut flowers. This year don’t think that you can start, build and finish a garden in two weekends. Take the initiative now and you’ll be happier, and much more able to enjoy your garden. To help you get started I’ll be posting my ‘to do’ lists with each Garden Journal post that way you’ll know what I plan to get done before next months post, so take a look at January’s list and see what you might be inspired to do till spring really get’s here.
Repair Cold Frames; build them if you don’t have any yet. It’s very simple just look for some plans online.
Develop Soil/Compost; begin composting if you haven’t already.
Select this years crops, coordinate this with what you like to eat and recipes that you cook often so that you are growing what you like, and what you’ll use.
Prepare Planting plan, and layout for garden, by February many cool weather plants to be placed in the ground so get ready now with planting schedules, and garden layout.
Catch up on garden knowledge, now is the time of year I look back through old magazines and reference my design books to help me develop the ideas that I want to work with this summer. Two of my favorite books are pictured below, The Backyard Homestead by Carleen Madigan, and Planning Your Garden by Peter McHoy. These are two of my best resources.
Finally get outside, I know its cold but take some time to walk your property/back yard, and see what feels good to you, where you want things and where the sun hits. A big part of gardening is just knowing the land, knowing your own backyard that’s why documentation is a key element. Start by documenting with your eyes, ears and hands, go outside.
So there it is, my first ‘Garden Journal’ entry. It’s not much but it will give you an idea of what’s going on, and hopefully add a little organization to my posts. Use the ‘To Do’ list as a way to guide you through a garden some of the things on there you don’t have to do, but others might really help. So look at it as a sort of guideline to the steps and then get on Google and fill in the rest of the info you might need. I hope this helps and I hope to see comments about the wonderful gardens and great flower beds everyone is building this year. Till next time, stay green, and keep it local.
From the Farm
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