January… It’s time to get ready. We all are ready. But for what? How did we do last year? How will I do this year? We are all sort of ready.
Lets start by looking at last years notes. Oh, no notes? We need notes. Mother nature keeps notes, why don’t you? No pics either? I bet you do. Look at outdoor gatherings like cook outs, birthdays, etc. Pic backgrounds can tell a lot of stories. Receipts of when you bought certain plants or seed packets. Were you early or late last year? See where this is going? You NEED notes. Start a journal this year using notes and pics.
Things to note. Weather, dates, temps, whats blooming at the present, whats not, what worked, what didn’t. Add climate actions as well as daylight hrs. available. NOAA has great “length of day” charts narrowed down to your zip code. What and when bugs and funguses emerge. Prolific growth spurts, first buds or blooms. What went good with what, and what didn’t. Start noting phenological events such as when Forsythia bloomed, Oak tree leaves start, Roses shoot out, Caterpillars arrive, heavy Mole activity, Gnat storms, etc. This will actually help you stay involved with your gardening and help keep your application rates and timing of certain products to get the maximum results, instead of maximum doses. It will also reduce the labor involved, thus making projects a joy, not a groaning task. Don’t forget your Frost Zone Data. Here in Richmond, Va. we are Zone 7a. Last average frost is around Apr 15th, first frost is around Oct 15th. Plan accordingly.
Seed starting can be a yearly ritual to enjoy…Or loath.. We all get the “fever” about now. We are gaining daylight hours, we were extremely busy with the Holidays since about Nov 1st. We have nothing to do now but….look out the window and think of fresh green beans and squash. It’s easy to get involved too early, or is it? Keep in mind that the box stores always are a season ahead. Patio furniture is in, gas logs are clearance items now, and its still snowing. That doesn’t mean you can start your seeds indoors now. Look at the germination rates on what you are going to grow. Now add about one month for the transplant date. Most will put you well before mid April, and the poor little guys will be getting root bound and start ailing in the starter sets. Now your confidence is shot, and you vow never to do this again. Stupid seeds! Timing is the best thing to shoot for, and, the best thing to put in that notebook we talked of earlier. Everything is out there on the market to make you successful. Grow lights, terrariums, seed starting mixes, moisture meters, and Garden Coaches. You can have a great salad this summer, with that fresh corn and watermelon.
Garden sizing has been the hub of great debates from many a people. My take is this. “I have never seen Mother Nature shop at a box store”. She can drop a seed in the crack of a sidewalk, and grow the most delicious tomato there, no human tending it, no added chemicals. Why can’t you? I have seen plentiful container gardens growing on patios, small plots 5ft x 10ft next to a crowded deck, and great herbs in hanging baskets on a balcony. I have seen Cantaloupes growing throughout an Azalea bed. There is no excuse anymore not to at least try, and keep notes. Mother Nature keeps notes in the form of Phenology. Forsythia blooms when the soil temp is 58 degrees at 4 inches deep for at least 5 days straight. Crabgrass needs that same scenario for 7 days to germinate. Therefore, you would put down your Pre-emergent at that time to get the most out of it you could. See? Record keeping… Nothing happens until something else happens, so do something. Get dirty!