It’s still cold and dark but the process of dreaming, planning, and anticipation is exciting and heart-warming! Think about how much zucchini you will use, and what fruits and vegetables your family will actually eat. A little planning goes a long way toward saving time, and increasing efficiency and utilized yield in the year ahead.
• Map and plan out veggie garden keeping crop rotation in mind. This is also a good time to work on hardscaping projects.
• If you’ve planned ahead last year, you can still be harvesting from the garden. Some vegetables to be harvesting now include winter hardy varieties of leeks, beets, parsnips, carrots, chard, perpetual spinach, kale and other members of the cabbage family. With a little protection you may even have some salad greens.
• It’s worth emptying your potato sacks and other produce in storage to check for any that are starting to rot before it spreads. Also, keep an eye on tuber storage so as to avoid dehydration or any rot starting.
• On a dry day, prune grapes, fruit trees, berries, and summer and fall-blooming deciduous shrubs so it’s done before the sap runs.
• If you use dormant-oil, now is the time to spray fruit trees. It is vital that the leaves have not begun to unfurl, or you will do more harm than good.
• Sharpen and clean tools with emery cloth, and apply a thin coat of linseed oil to protect from rust. Try an overnight vinegar bath for rusty tools. If you need new tools opt for steel with hardwood handles for quality and durability. Cheap tools with plastic handles don’t last.
• Keep the plot tidy and check tree stakes remain firm, greenhouses are secure etc. against winter storms.
• Continue soil revamping and amending.
• Make sure your compost pile stays covered to prevent rain from leaching nitrogen.
• Remove any mummified fruits hanging or on the ground under the trees as these will be harbouring pests.
• If it snows heavy, keep an eye on trees and shrubs. Although snow is insulating and should usually be left, if there is too much snow can make the branches more vulnerable to breakage.
• Chart microclimates. Watch for where snow melts unevenly and when. Take note of frost pockets where snow lingers longer on the ground.
• Make note of and work on drainage problems.
• Watch the network of tracks in the snow to see clearly who frequents your garden and their favourite paths.
• Now is a great time to sit down with your see catalogues or browse the seed merchants’ websites, and decide what you want to grow this year. Even if you have favourites, it’s often a good idea to try some new varieties and compare their performance.
In the Greenhouse: (Or cold-frame if you’re short on space!)
• Continue propagation of hardwood cuttings.
• In the latter half of January you could start some cultivars of leeks, onion, artichoke, hardy greens, and pansy seed. Heating coils are helpful. It’s tempting get over eager and transplant early in the season, but it’s much better to wait until there’s no chance of a late frost to put out your seedlings.
• Keep greenhouse hygienic and avoid too much moisture.
• Watch for insect infestations beginning.
Written by: Kira Desorcy, Horticulture Technician & Certified in Permaculture Design