January can have some nice days that allow us to get outside, breath in fresh air, take in some sunshine and get a jumpstart on the beginning of planting season.
Plan ahead. Work out what to grow where next growing season. Aim to try something new and bear in mind the principles of crop rotation.
Now is a great time to top up mulches if you haven’t already done so. Add well-rotted manure or garden compost on the soil surface, rake it out the leave for the frost and worms to break down and incorporate. Aim to cover the ground to a depth of at least an inch.
Prune trees. Winter prune apples and pears, remove any crossing branches then concentrate on the three Ds: dead, damaged and diseased wood.
Plant fruit. Begin to plant fruit trees, bushes and canes, but only if your soil isn’t saturated or frozen. Mulch around the area after planting.
Force Rhubarb. Place a forcing pot, bucket or large pot with the drainage holes covered of rhubarb crops to force an earlier crop of tender pale stems.
Set up new raised beds. January is an excellent time to get those raised beds set up so you can be ready at planting time.
Order Seeds. Who doesn’t love pursuing seeds. Now is the time to think about the coming season. Check stored seed packets and order fresh seeds in good time to have the best selection as seed varieties lessen as the season goes.
Order needed supplies. Check over your garden supplies such as tags, labels, twine, supports, fertilizers and pest control and get organized before the busy growing season begins. It’s easy to become overwhelmed when you are in the height of the season and there is “one more thing” to do. Being prepared for the coming season makes gardening much more enjoyable and successful!
Microgreens are a fantastic way of enjoying delicious fresh salad leaves throughout the year. There are many types to try and if you have a bright spot or windowsill, they couldn’t be easier to grow.
Sow the seeds thickly into trays or pots filled with 1 inch of moist soil mix. We use Fox Farm Salamander Potting Mix. Lightly cover seeds with potting mix. Tip: Use organic microgreen seed packages. They contain more seeds and are money saving. Never use treated seeds!
Place clean paper towels (bleach-free) over the entire surface and mist with water. We also use a dome to help keep moisture in and help control even temperature. Keep in a warm place. A sunny windowsill will be beneficial when seeds have sprouted. Keep the towels moist by misting when they begin to dry out, being careful to not allow the soil to become too wet or soggy. Use a spray bottle for best results. Check daily and remove the paper towels when seedlings start to appear. Tip: You can use a heat mat to speed germination. Warmer soil means faster germination and the sooner microgreens will be ready to harvest.
Seedlings grow quickly and most types will develop their first proper pairs of leaves just days after germinating. Keep them moist at all times. There is no need to feed them.
Microgreens are ready to harvest once they have grown two or three pairs of leaves, or are large enough to handle easily. Don’t allow them to grow any larger. Young leaves taste the best!
To harvest microgreens simply cut them off at the base just above the soil and discard the roots and soil to the compost.
Eat right away or store microgreens in a container of your choice (plastic bag, glass storage) for up to a week in the refrigerator. Tip: If you rinse before storing, be sure to remove all moisture or microgreens will not keep.
There are many choices of microgreens to grow. Brassica crops are the easiest for beginners. Mellow Blend and Jazzy Blend super fast and simple to start out with. Basil takes the longest to grow, but well worth the time. Beets add a great flavor and color. Sunflowers have a delicious nutty flavor and add a crunch to salads and sandwiches.
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It's that time of year to plant poppy seeds!
Hill up cauliflower, cabbaage and other top-heavy vegetables from toppling in the wind. Hill soil up around the vase of each plant for extra stability.
We think of thyme as a culinary herb, but thyme has a place in the medicine cabinet. Make a tea for lung congestion and coughs. It helps loosen and expel mucous as well as help with dry spasmodic coughs. It is antimicrobial in nature.
Edible Flowers From The Garden
Lavender, bachelor's button, calendula, flowering herbs like thyme, rosemary, sage, and mint, anise hyssop, holy basil, borage, elderberry flowers are beautiful to make wild blossom simple syrup and added to lemonade.
Add Fallen Leaves to Garden Beds
Gather those fall leaves and work them right into your bare garden beds this fall! While leaves do no add many nutrients, they add tilth to the garden and encourage microbial activity in the soil!
Parsnip Seed Never Comes Up Thickly
Parsnip seed is rarely good after two or three years. The seed is slow to germinate and not of great vitality. Fresh seed should be used and the surface of the soil should be keep moist at all times.
Value of Wood Ashes
Wood Ashes are a high source of potash, but they are also alkaline. If your soil is high on the pH scale, skip the ashes! If your soil is acidic ashes are a great amendment to add!
“Feed The Birds” Gift In A Jar
Give your favorite bird watcher a New Years Gift!
Gather three different types of seeds such as Thistle, Wild Bird & Song Bird Seeds or Black Sunflower Seed. Layer 3 or 6 alternating layers of the different seeds in a wide mouth quart jar. Place flat sealing lid down on jar and cut a round piece of fabric bigger than lid, preferably a bird print or feathers, screw on ring and wrap ring with raffia with a bow. Glue on a small feather bird or even tie feathers with the raffia for an accent. Cut a rectangle piece from a brown paper bag and write on it "Feed the Birds!"
Did You Know?
Clothes sold as “non-iron” are treated with formaldehyde. Maybe that old ironing chore may not seem so bad after all!
Instead of using bleach to whiten small cotton items, you can boil them for a few minutes in a solution of water and lemon juice. Works like a charm without the chemicals!
Distilled white vinegar can be used to soften fabrics instead of fabric softeners. Don’t worry, your clothes won’t smell like vinegar!!!
Corn Gluten Meal AKA Corn Weed Blocker
Derived from corn, it contains 10 percent nitrogen fertilizer. Apply it only to actively growing plants, because it inhibits the growth of seeds. Allow 4-6 months after using it before planting seeds. Use it on lawns in early spring to green up the perennial grasses and prevent annual weeds like crabgrass! We love it in our corn patch after seeds have germinated! Works great!
Sage Lotion for Sunburned Skin
Tear a handful of fresh sage leaves into a bowl, cover with boiling water and infuse for 20 minutes. Strain into a bottle, refrigerate and apply when needed.
Wind and rain can send tall, single -stemmed or heavy flowers like delphiniums, lilies or peonies sprawling about spoiling their blossoms or breaking their stems. Helping them stand up will give them a chance to show off their beauty! Twiggy branches pruned from shrubs or trees will do the trick. These freebies make excellent flower supports because they blend into the scenery unlike intrusive metal stakes or poles. Choose sticks that are about 6 inches shorter than the mature height of the plant this way they will hid perfectly when blooms arrive!
You can build a compost pile on an unused growing bed so the next crop grown in that bed will pick up and utilize any nutrients leached out from the pile into the soil.
Saving Tomatoes from Freeze
If you have some space in your garage this works great! When expecting a frost and you have lots of tomatoes that are not quit ripe, you can pull up the entire tomato bush, hang upside down in the garage and let them ripen on the vine. By doing it this way the tomatoes will still have that great vine ripened flavor. If space is limited, pick the tomatoes, wrap them separately in newspaper and place in a shallow box in the garage or a cool, but not freezing place. Watch them closely for ripening. If tomatoes are very immature they will only rot, so keep only larger sized tomatoes or the ones with a slight coloring.
When you have an over abundance of zucchini, make pickles. You will be amazed at how good they taste during the cold winter months or anytime! They are great for gifts too! Cut zucchini into long spears, pack them into jars, add whole garlic cloves and fresh dill and fill with a basic pickle brine. Just like the real deal!
Dried herbs are more potent than fresh - 1 teas. dried equals 1 T. fresh.
To store fresh herbs, wrap them in barely damp paper towels, place inside resealable plastic bags, and keep refrigerated.
Add most herbs about 30 minutes before the end of cooking time; simmer slowly to release flavor and retain volatile oils.
The chopped leaves of fresh hervs may be frozen with water into ice cubes and then stored in labeled, airtight freezer bags. Use to impart an herbal flavor in soups or stews.
Use herbs in moderation. Some may be overpowering if to much is used. Flavor to taste.
Feeding roses with alfalfa meal will make your roses bloom larger and healthier and bloom throughout the summer. Work your soil around roses and apply two cups of organic alfalfa meal for an average sized tea rose. Do this every six weeks and you will be amazed and your roses will sing you a sweet smelling song! Remember to dead-head too!
Bouquet garni are simply bundles of herbs and armoatics wrapped with a 5-inch long dark greed leek leaf and tied together with kitchen string. To make the bouquet, spread the leek leaf open and place herbs and aromatics in the middle. Fold the leaf tightly around the herbs, then wrap a peice of kitchen string around the leaf multiple times and tie to secure.
How to get rid of that garlic smell on your hands!
Rub your hands all over any stainless steel utensil under running water and the garlic smell with magically disappear.
To soothe bee stings hold a cotton ball soaked in white distilled vinegar on the affected area.
Pea, Radish and Pea Shoot Salad
Whisk together 3 T. shallot, 2 t. white wine vinegar, and 1/2 t. kosher salt in a medium bowl and set aside for at least 5 minutes. Whisk in 2 T. sour cream and 1/4 c. good olive oil. Season with with pepper.
Fill a large bowl with ice water. Bring a large saucepan of water to boil. Add 1/2 t. kosher salt per cup of water. Add 2 c. sugar snap peas and 1 c. freshly shelled garden peas and cook for 1 minute, then use a slotted spoon or strainer to transfer them into the ice water to stop the cooking and set their color. Drain the peas, pat dry, and transfer into a meduim bowl. Add 1 c. thinly slice radishes and dressing and stir gently to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Cut 2 c. pea shoots (tendrils from the top of pea plants) into bite-sized and arrange on a serving plater. Spoon the pea and radish mixtue over the shoots, scatter with cubed farmer cheese.
Got Squash Bugs?
To deter squash bugs from attacking pumpkin vines, plant catnip, marigolds, mint, nasturtiums, petunias, or radishes nearby.
Adding Sound and Motion to Your Landscape
Ornamental grasses add more than color and texture to a garden. They contribute two more elements you may not have thought about. Their thin, pliant stems are responsive to the slightest breeze, so they add motion to a still life of trees and flowers. They contribute delightfully relaxing sounds with their soft rustling, swishing and sighing in the breeze.
Why doesn’t my lettuce head properly?
Certain varieties do not head. Choose a heading lettuce like buttercrunch. Lettuce is a cool season crop and there are a sections of the country that have climates that are cool enough during the summer to grow.
It's still the season! Whether your fresh fruits and vegetables are from a home garden, a market, or roadside stand they need to be washed. Stores offer expensive sprays, washes, and soaks. Here are simple and economical homemade ones.
1 T lemon juice, 1 T baking soda, 2 T salt, and 1 cup water OR 1 cup water, 1 cup vinegar and 1 T vinegar.
For the sprays, combine in a
deep pitcher because the mixtures will foam up; then pour into a spray
bottle. To use, shake gently, spray on fruits or veggies, let them sit
for a few minutes and then rinse under cold water.