Saturday, January 4, 2014

January Garden Planner

Saturday, January 4, 2014

January is the time of dreaming and planning for your spring garden.  All the seed companies begin sending out their catalogs for seeds and plants this month.   It is an exciting time for browsing the magazines and making the garden plan for the upcoming year!

4 Season Garden Explained
You hear people talk about a four season garden.  This just means growing a garden that you can harvest from in all four season-spring, summer, fall and winter.

Crops fall into 2 categories-cold season crops and warm season crops.  Cold season crops are those that prefer when temperatures are cool.  When warm temperatures hit (80’s), the cold crops “bolt” which is simply sending up a flower stalk to make seeds.

Warm season crops are those that abhor frost or getting their feet chilly.  Most of the warm season crops are killed by frost and won’t grow until the soil is nice and warm. 

As you can guess, cold season crops are grown in the spring and fall.  The really cold (and freeze) hardy ones are also grown in the winter garden.  Warm season crops are put out after all danger of frost is passed and the soil has warmed.

Cold crops-Arugula, Broccoli, Cabbage, Celery, Fennel, Leek, Lettuce, Marjoram, Onions, Parsley, Peas, Summer savory, Sorrel, Spinach
Napa cabbage

Warm season crops-Basil, Tomatoes, Peppers, Eggplants, Squash, and Beans.
Pimento pepper

So, when you go to plant in the spring, you will start with the cold season crops.  Once the danger of frost has passed, you can then add in your warm season crops.

Grow what you love!
If you have ever wanted to plant an Italian kitchen garden, but weren’t sure if you had the space, you may be surprised.  You can grow the staples of an Italian kitchen garden in as little as 6’ x 6’ space. 

To entice the little ones, an Italian garden is also a "Pizza or Spaghetti Garden"!

It is common for Italians to have a small kitchen garden where they grow herbs, greens and vegetables year round.  It is amazing the amount of food you can grow in a very small space!

If you have only a 6’ x 6’ space, an Italian kitchen garden could include the following:
Herbs (1 each)-thyme, rosemary, sage, oregano, and flat leaf parsley
3 basil plants (for pesto and seasoning)
2 tomatoes-1 Roma type for sauces and 1 slicer type for salads
2 sweet pepper plants
1 zucchini (look for “bush” types as they are more compact)
1 eggplant
8 red onions
8 garlic plants
Arugula, spinach and lettuce scatter sowed

If you also have room for pots on the patio, you could grow the zucchini, eggplant, and cucumber in pots  (only 1 plant in each pot) and add 3 bush or 6 pole bean plants in the garden bed.  Traditional bush beans would be lentils, Romano, Capitano, Cannellini, fava; pole beans-Roma, Helda, Supermarconi.  Personally, I would stick with the beans you eat whole as shelled beans you do not get as much food per plant, and less food per space in the garden.

If you have more room, you can add almonds (yes, they survive Midwest winters), beets, chard, fennel, chickpeas, figs (grows well in a pot), asparagus, cardoon, chicories, radicchio, endives, broccoli, cauliflower, or annual artichokes.

Don't be afraid to interplant your veggies with your flowers.  Flowers not only look great, but they also attract pollinators, increasing your yields, and insects that take care of the dreaded veggie eating insects.  It is a win-win all the way around.

I tuck onions between my day lilies and plant marigolds all around the perimeter of my flower and veggie patch.  Day lilies are edible and marigolds are a great pest deterrent.

Seed catalogs that have a good selection of Italian vegetables and herbs-Johnnie’s Selected Seeds, Renee’s Garden, Seeds of Change, Territorial Seed Company, Cook’s Garden, Seeds from Italy, Italian Seeds & Tool Co., Botanical Interest.

What Is Growing in the January Garden?
In our garden beds, kale, cabbage, sorrel, rosemary, oregano, garlic, onions, lettuce, leeks, chard, dill, celery, spinach are all still green in January.  Under the portable greenhouse, the lettuce, parsley, celery, kale, and spinach are still going strong.
Inside our portable mini greenhouse on the patio

Plants have been in a somewhat dormant state until we start getting 10 hours of daylight.  For our area, this is January 24th when both indoor and outdoor plants will start growing again.  The lettuce, chard, sorrel, cabbage, kale, celery, and herbs that have overwintered will start growing with vigor again after this time with clear days and warmer temperatures.

You can scatter sow seeds now of cold hardy crops and they will be primed for the longer days.  It is surprising to see the little greens popping their heads out in February.  The force of life is amazing.

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