The winter garden

january-winter-garden-2017I thought it would be good to post on the first day of a new year. I hope this upcoming season is a great one for all! I also hope you’re using this time to think about, plan, and prepare for your garden, hopefully in early spring. We’ve got about 4 weeks before we hit the minimum 10 hours of daylight, where its a good idea to start planting certain cool weather crops. It does take longer to get them going and its more work. For those wanting to do less, you can still plant in early March and probably have a harvest around the same time as us early January planters.

This will be the first year in as long as I can remember that I wont be planting on Presidents Day weekend. I’m going to put it off until the first week of March. Right now the garden looks good, and I’ve been harvesting plenty of overwintered carrots, chard, beet greens, scallions, spinach, and small leaf lettuce varieties. The radishes are gone, but were good earlier in winter.

I’ve literally done nothing in my garden since November 28th. With the right crop varieties and the right protection, having a 4 season harvest is a very simple thing to do. There’s been no watering and only harvesting. In about 4 weeks it’ll begin to look pretty empty. I’ve got my compost ready to amend the soil when the time comes to get cranking on the early spring season.

One last note: my ebook is a few days from being released. I’ve been threatening now for 2 years and it’s finally here! Its an book about growing my favorite crop, lettuce, in the hot months of summer. For the most part, I’m pleased with the final product. I don’t consider myself to be a very good writer so it takes me a long time to finish. Its 12 pages long and will sell for $4.99. It talks about the 5 techniques I’ve used to successfully have lettuce all summer. I hope you’ll like it and will have a chance to give it a favorable review. I’m hoping to have it available on all the major online outlets very soon as well as here on my blog. Stay tuned.

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Lemon balm in your square foot garden

lemon-balmI thought it might be nice to report on something I did for the first time this past season. Where I live the water tastes particularly bad in the summer. I find myself adding slices of lemon for glasses of water to hide the chlorine taste coming out of the tap. I wondered if adding a few leaves of lemon balm would do the trick.

It did. And I made some delicious lemonade with it as well. As I did some reading, I found that this fun herb can be used for all sorts of things ranging from what I had done to making tinctures for folks who have a hard time sleeping to adding it to smoothies and more. It does spread so if you’re planning on growing this in your square foot garden plan on it taking up an entire square. And even then I had to trim it back by seasons end. I included this in my delivery baskets for 6 weeks and they all wanted more!

This was a solid performer with a large yield! One plant was enough to provide 3-4 people with several sprigs for 6 weeks. Trim it back at the end of the season and it will regrow the next spring. Its a nice lush, green, and bushy plant that I think you’ll enjoy

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Prepped box for winter

prepped-garden-box-for-winterI just pushed about 3 inches of soil over, filled it with fall leaves and pushed the soil back on top. You won’t see the leaves-they are covered with soil. And you won’t see the leaves come spring time either. This is a great way to prepare your soil for the next growing season.

It takes about 5 minutes per box to do this. When spring arrives all you need to do is cover your boxes with plastic to heat the soil up. Even after a very hard winter season, your soil will be ready to plant in about one week.

If you were to turn your soil and look for leaves at that time, they’ll probably be gone. They are eaten and “mulched” into fertilizer by our friendly earthworms

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Prepare now for a successful 2017 gardening season

img_0434As the actual work finishes up for me in late fall, I’ve always used this time to prepare for the next growing season. It’s an easy process and will reap huge dividends next spring.  

I like to gather as many bags of leaves from my property as I can. I’ll end up with 10-12 bags by the time I’m done raking, which is perfect for my gardening needs. The majority are use in the composting process as a great brown material, but some will be used as a mulch to keep the soil cooler when growing summer lettuces. Some will be used to amend the existing soil. I keep my bags closed off for the winter storage. I don’t want any moisture getting into the bags because it makes a soggy mess come spring. I end up putting all my bagged leaves under a plastic cover so I don’t have to worry about it. When I need a bag of leaves during the growing season they’re in perfect shape for my uses. They are completely dried out and crumble into pieces very easily.

In each of my square foot garden boxes I will push over about 3 inches of soil. I then spread a layer of fall leaves over the entire surface, and then cover up the leaves with the soil I originally moved over. By the time spring arrives you’ll usually find no leaves at all when you dig down. The reason? Earthworms. You end up adding a great ingredient to your soil that will set you up for success next year.

Years ago, when I didn’t have any trees or leaves produced on my property, I ended up asking the neighbors for theirs. They always said yes. There’s always a way to get free leaves if you can’t produce enough from your property.     &nbsp

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Tatsoi-a great winter garden crop

img_0421This is tatsoi-a very tasty and fairly easy to grow Asian green. I’ve tried very hard to get the timing down so that all my winter crops will be about 75-80% of full size by November 14th. On this date in zone 6 the sunlight hours dip below 10 hours a day and everything stops growing and hibernates until about the first week of February.
This green can be stir-fried but I like to use it as is in a mesclun mix during the winter months. I would describe the taste as firm and a little on the sweet side. One thing for sure-it doesn’t do well in warm weather.
With the holidays just around the corner isn’t it time to start thinking about some great gardening gifts? I’m going to put up an ad for grow-bags.  I used the GardenMate brand shown on the side of my blog.   This is the first year I’ve used them and I was very impressed. With two side handles they can be moved around because they aren’t too heavy. The crops don’t dry out like plastic containers. They can be cleaned at the end of the season(don’t put them in the dryer), and reused the following spring. I’ve used the 15 gallon, the 5 gallon, and the 1 gallon grow bags. Right now I’ve got a very successful brussel sprout plant growing in a 5 gallon grow bag. I’ve got about 25 pounds, maybe more, of red pontiac potatoes being stored in a 15 gallon bag.
Using grow bags saves me a lot of room in my square foot gardens. It opens up needed space to use for crops that are sold during the normal growing season.  Though I’ve normally grown potatoes in my square foot gardens, I now can use grow bags and not tie up squares for 4 months.
Go ahead-give them a look. Buy them for family members who want to garden but simply don’t have the room. They will love these. And you can buy 3 of them packaged together for a ridiculously low price. I’ll be talking more about grow bags during the winter months. It’s been a lot of fun experimenting with them this year.