A successful garden means planning in January. January may be a cold and gloomy month but that doesn’t mean there isn’t work to be done. This is made easier by the fact that January is when all the seed catalogs start arriving and I get excited for planting all the things. Like I said in my prior post though, the desire to plant all the things needs to be kept in check. This year I am focusing on my already established fruit trees and bushes, a medicinal herb garden and a small vegetable garden for our personal use.
We have had a significant amount of rain these past few weeks so the first thing we did once we had a dry day was clean up all the leaves and put them on our garden beds and compost bin. It always makes me a little sad when I see our neighbors burning their leaves or bagging them to be taken by the local garbage. Leaves are where all the nutrients and sun are processed and though they have died off they contain so much needed nutrients for the soil and plants. Always reuse your leaves. They are not only the foundation for amazing compost but they are an excellent way to control weeds in your garden beds.
We also have a bunch of pine needles that cover everything this time of year that needs cleaned up and composted. We have used the pine needles as mulch for our decorative garden beds and our grape-arbor walk-way. This saves us money too. We have read conflicting information about the advantages of using pine needles in garden beds that need an acidic pH level. What I’ve noticed is that it certainly doesn’t hurt to use as mulch but I personally don’t think it makes a significant impact on the soil pH unless the pine needles are chopped up so that they degrade faster. The only area I won’t use pine needles as mulch anymore is on my rosemary. Rosemary needs to have well drained beds and the pine needles seem to keep more moisture than they need in the area.
Next, we will be pruning back our muscadine vines and pruning back our plum, pear and apple trees. The late frost last year did some serious damage to our plum and pear trees so we will probably be cutting back more than usual but hopefully it will give them a good start for this coming spring. It is always best to do the pruning in late January to early February. You want to prune when the sap is in the ground but will be ready to come up soon to help restore and heal the plant. I will admit I am a little worried about timing it right this year because we have had such a warm winter so far that I have noticed some plants haven’t completely died back yet and others are all ready showing signs of budding.
January is also a good month to make repairs to things around the homestead. We have an electric fence that is supposed to keep the deer out of our garden that needs to be tightened up and a few gates that need strengthened. This is also a good time to clean, repair and organize all your tools. Make sure everything is in working order so that when you need the tools you are not having to repair or replace them.
Last but my favorite part is ordering from those seed catalogs. Now is the time to get those orders in so that you can start the seeds next month inside. Especially if you are wanting to plant something different or unusual that isn’t normally sold at your local store. I will be ordering some special flowers for my medicinal garden that I can’t usually find locally.