Monday, January 5, 2015

January's Garden Notes

It may be the dead of winter, but here in the south the garden is still very much alive. Cool weather crops are spreading their leaves and bursting forth in all their vibrant glory; purple cabbage and red sails lettuce open their leaves wide next to deep green kale and stately onion tops. Our theme for January is observation- taking a closer look at the glory revealed beneath the cover of the frost cloth.
Garden Instruction:
As we teach others in the garden, or learn ourselves, this month is an excellent time to take our time and truly see what is in front of us. Notice the venation of the leaf; where the color deepens and where it fades softly. Consider the changes that have occurred during the weather fluctuations: growth, death, fruiting and frost. Take a moment and ponder the evidence of a pest or lack of it; nibble marks, tethered edges or perfectly round holes.
Monthly Maintenance:
January finds some much needed maintenance, especially when we have had some heavy rain and a seasonal freeze. It's time to grab our gloves and pull up the withered, weathered and 'melted' plants whose time has come and gone. If nature is the culprit, toss them in the compost bin (and add a few leaves/peelings while we are at it) giving the bin a good stir while we are there. Severe pest damaged plants can be fed to the chickens or tossed in the burn pile- no one wants those pests lurking in our future fertilizer. Give soil a good aeration; clawing, cultivating, or simply softening empty areas and beneath plants (careful not to damage roots). A dose of fertilizer is always helpful; side dress with compost if you have some or maybe use some spent coffee grounds.
January Harvest:
The harvest is possible despite the cold- we have all manner of greens and roots in our gardens: collards, cabbage, kale and lettuces, radish and carrot- even some herbs. Young multiplier onions are coming out of our soil; mild and tasty! Harvest lend us to some wonderful interaction with our children as they measure and weigh, considering the possible increase or decrease if conditions had been different. Don't forget that harvest lead us to the kitchen where tasty sautés, salads and soups find our hard work displayed.
In the south we are always planting. This month brings us to plant the same things we are harvesting: lettuce, greens, cole crops, carrots, onions, and tender peas. Time to reflect on what we have grown and pursue greater success, being sure to amend our soil with healthy nutrients and rotate our plantings to different grounds.
Share your success!
Our gardens are hard work and we should be humbly proud of it. Take the time to share your experience and your success. What did you find, grow, learn, or taste this month? I had quite a surprise when I stepped into the garden this morning. I found a donkey there!

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