January Gardening Tips
by Ira Wallace of Southern Exposure Seed Exchange
author of the new Grow Great Vegetables in Virginia
The steadily growing stack of new seed catalogs are a reminder that January is a good time to review your last year’s garden and plan for the coming season. This is also a good time to think about and order the tools you will need as well as the seeds you want for the coming season. Planning your garden has just gotten easier with the profusion of new online garden planners that help plan your plantings, keep track of crop rotations and even sends your twice monthly reminders of what needs to be planted for your garden plan. You can try the new Southern Exposure Seed Exchange Garden Planner free for 7 days to see how it works for you.
In addition to books and spreadsheets a gardener needs the right tools to be successful. One tool that I love is a long handled scuffle (stirrup) hoe. I think that every gardener should have at least one to get the tedious job of controlling weeds in long rows and big areas done early when the weeds are young, Scuffle hoes come in a variety of sizes and are great for thinning as well as early and pre-emergent weeding. The action with a scuffle hoe is a near effortless forward and back action done from a comfortable standing position. It feels like gliding along the row.
When weeds are larger and a bit out of control or you need to make furrows for planting larger seeds a heavier tool is called for like a traditional American garden hoe, a sturdy grub hoe or a heavy field hoe like something straight out of Gone with the Wind. These stout hoes also work well for weeding and hilling potatoes or sweet potatoes at the same time.
For weeding intensively planted raised beds or close up to plants in regular rows any one of the many sharp tools on a short handle available at garden centers and nurseries can be used from a sitting position and allows for easy control when working around young seedlings. The Cobrahead ”steel fingernail” tool is one of the best all around small gardening tool I have come across. Weeds the cobrahead blade can’t cut it simply lifts. The self sharpening blade on this sturdy American made tool can be used in all directions.
Every warm day in January I am itching to start sowing seeds, but I know how important it is not to rush the season. Overgrown seedlings can be more stressed by transplanting and ultimately won’t produce any earlier than seedlings sown at the appropriate time. Check out SESEs article on what to sow in January for some oft-forgotten crops that actually should be sown this month, like rhubarb, asparagus, and bulbing onions, as well as a huge variety of greens.
When you place your seed order this winter, be sure to plan ahead for succession plantings all year as well as summer plantings for the fall and winter garden.SESEs Fall & Winter Garden Planning will help you plan for the whole year not just spring and summer. Also don’t forget to add flower and herb seeds for beauty and to support beneficial insects. That way, you can order the appropriate packet sizes to get you through the whole planting season. You can save money on shipping by making fewer seed orders or by ordering bulk sizes.
Keep planning it’s almost time to really start planting seeds!