By Sara Creamer
Fayette County Master
Gardener Volunteer Coordinator
WASHINGTON CH — January is named for the Roman god Janus. He is the god of transitions, gates, and doors among other things. Janus is a dual faced god that looks forward and backward. January is a good month to plan for your summer garden. Like Janus, you can reflect on what happened in your garden in 2017 (while you can still remember) and plan for 2018. You can dream about what your vegetable garden will look like this summer. A good garden plan will help you achieve your dream.
Put your plan on paper. You can decide where to plant things and how much to plant. A garden plan keeps you from overplanting and avoiding the frustration of what to do with all those extra vegetables. You will be able to refer to the plan from year to year and keep track of crop rotations.
You might want to start a garden journal so that you can record favorite new vegetables and the duds that did not grow at all for you (or that the kids just spit out). Part of your journal could be a calendar listing when to start seed indoors. Last year in January, my article was about how to grow your own plants. You can refer to that article for how to start your own seeds.
My garden plan usually starts with an inventory of the root cellar. This record goes in the journal. It helps me decide what we need to grow to replenish supplies. We have to have a good supply of stewed tomatoes at our house. We can grow cabbage for sauerkraut every other year or so.
Perhaps you only eat fresh vegetables and do not can or freeze your harvest. You can start with the question, “Who will be doing the work?” You should keep the garden to a size that can be managed by the work force. (This is good advice for flowerbeds, too). A small weed-free garden produces more than a large, weedy garden.
Once the catalogues begin rolling in, read them carefully. It is best to resist over ordering. Here are good questions to ask to help you stick to a reasonable size. Which variety is the better one for my garden? Is it a lot of work to grow from planting to eating? Does some critter always get it first? Does my family really eat it? Does it have some characteristic the family does not like such as too fuzzy, too thorny, or too smelly? Look for varieties that are disease and pest resistant. Perhaps it will need harvesting just when you are on vacation. You can start your order with two lists: one of new stuff to try and one of the must haves.
You can use your catalogs to organize your leftover seed. The catalogs will tell you the timing to sow seed. The seed can be organized by sowing dates. You can test your seed viability using a ‘rag doll’ test. Roll up 10 seeds in a moist paper towel. Put the paper towel in a zip lock bag in a place where you would get optimal germination. In ten days or so, check to see how many seeds have sprouted. If the number is less than five, it is time to buy new seed.
I know you are busy reading those gardening books you received for Christmas, but winter is a good time to take a gardening class. Many Master Garden volunteer groups offer classes. You can check with your county MGV group to see if they are offering a class.
Today has single digit wind chill. It would be a great day to start planning your garden. I you have questions; call your county extension professional. Sara Creamer can be reached at 740-335-1150 or at email@example.com.