Lets Plant Something!
Spring fever always hits me early. Today the sun was shining and the temperature broke 50 degrees for the third day in a row. Let’s get ready to plant! Actually, UGA Extension publications list January 15 as the earliest planting date for numerous cold tolerant crops; so although I’m several hours from the mild south Georgia climate, I’m still only a few weeks away from go-time. Now is the time for winter garden preparation that will get us ready for the fast approaching season.
Warm up the Soil
Soil solarization has a place in the hearts of organic gardeners as an effective weed control method. Just cover the weed infested ground with clear plastic for a couple of months in summer and the weed seed will germinate and then die off. In the early season, a similar approach can help to rapidly warm the soil in preparation for seeding. I will cover a few areas of the garden with black plastic for a couple of weeks to help them absorb a bit of extra heat, thereby speeding the germination of peas, spinach, lettuce, carrots, radishes and beets in late winter. After warming the soil, we will sow on a day with several mild days expected to follow, sometime in the second half of February.
I soak as much of my seed as possible to help expedite germination. The day before I sow, I place the seed in a small bowl of warm water and let it stand until the following morning. Then I drain it through a seive and spread it onto a flour sack towel and let it dry enough to handle before sowing. In the early season, speeding up germination can make a big difference in harvest time. If the seed germinates, the roots will grow even if the top seems to stand still. Then when the weather breaks again the top will quickly catch up. I may go ahead and get some radishes soaking this week.
Start Seeds Indoors
I have been reluctant to start plants indoors which I want to plant in the garden a month or more prior to the average last frost date. To me, the hardening off phase is a bit too difficult to plan for, and many of the earliest veggies do just fine with just a bit of extra field protection. Besides, I like to get going on warm season vegetable starts at this time. Starting a few tomatoes, peppers and eggplants well ahead of their garden planting time helps guarantee an extra early harvest of these summertime favorites. Starting squash indoors can significantly reduce insect pest problems as you bypass the life cycles of squash bugs and vine borers.
Don’t Forget Herbs
This is a good time to divide clumps of chives, thyme, mint and other perennial herbs. I have some oregano cuttings rooting in a jar on my seed starting rack that came from last week’s “haircut.” I’ll give the garden sage that same treatment this week. These little guys just keep on giving!
Add a Little Mulch
I noticed this weekend that my compost pile was half the size of it’s October self. As I turned and fluffed and added to it, I couldn’t help pulling off some of the well processed stuff and adding to the mulch on the spinach. That spinach has done very well through the cold, but I really want it to take off when the temps head back up so I figured a little extra love wouldn’t hurt.
Hope you were able to get a reprieve from the cold too. Winter garden preparation is a welcome change from staring at walls. Happy gardening!