A crisp, sweet salad. Fresh picked carrots. Stir-fried kale with green onions. These are the blessings of winter~ IF you have been diligent in planning and preparing!
In the dark and cold of January is the time to curl up with a seed catalog and dream. Dream of seed packets of life, dream of warm earth, and of planting time! If you would like to be picking greens in December, January is a good time to start planning for that!
Over the years I have read, made charts, made lists, and planned planting dates. In order to achieve my goal of eating vegetables from our garden. All Year Long! Are you stuck buried under a dump-truck load of papers and charts listing when to plant this, and how much to plant of that? Are you overwhelmed with frost dates and planting cycles and succession planting schedules? All of this will be covered this month to give you a great Organized start to a bountiful garden All Year Long!
In this post I’m going to start with a general list of what tasks need to be done each month. This to-do list is based on what I do, here in Southwest Missouri. I am in zone 6b. You can find your gardening zone here. Our last frost date average is around April 20th. This is an excellent source of your first and last frost dates, it even has percentages of chance of frost at different dates for your zip code! So you can adjust your planting schedules accordingly.
But, I’m afraid even all of this info won’t tell you everything you need to know about when to plant your garden! The specifics of your particular piece of land are unique. I suggest keeping notes on temperature. Use your own thermometer and learn when frost comes to your garden. Our particular garden does not usually get frost when the weather forecast calls for it. Because of the lay of the land, buildings, and tree placement, I know I have a few degrees to play with. This kind of knowledge is priceless, and comes only from experience in your garden. You can only know these kind of particulars by observation from year to year. Write it down. Even if you are sure you’ll remember it! You won’t. Trust me.
So, get yourself a notebook, the very simplest will do, and write EVERYTHING in it as you go. Write When you mulch, how much it took. Write the dates you n they came up. Write plant seeds, the varieties you planted, when they came up. Write when you transplanted. Write down daily temps. How long ’till germination? How long until they produced? Where did you buy seedlings? Which varieties were you pleased with? Not so much? Why? What pests did you battle with which plants or varieties? How did you deal with them? How much did each variety produce, and how many plants did you have? How much rainfall did you get? How often did you water? And on, and on you go! You don’t have to spend boatloads of time doing this. We keep a notebook out in a prominent place, with that day’s date at the top of the page, and every time we do anything we jot it down. Some of the pages are even a to do list! This information will be invaluable as you plan for next year!
You’ll notice there are no exact dates on any tasks. That is due to the variations in weather from year to year. When the last couple of weeks in February roll around, and it’s nice and warm, then I take advantage and plant my greens and lettuce. If the first of March rolls around, and it’s gray and snowy, then I wait to plant those salad greens until the sun shines and it warms up a bit. That’s all there is to it. Work with what Mother Nature gives you.
- Plan. How much space do you have to dedicate to growing? What are the exact vegetables you want to grow? How much space will each plant of each variety take up? Don’t worry. We will discuss the actual garden plan in the next article! But for now a list of the vegetables you want to plant, and which varieties you want of those will get you started nicely! And the best vegetables to grow for your family? The ones you like to eat, of coarse!. You can try one or two new ones, too. But just make sure the bulk of your plan is what you know you will eat! Sit down with a catalog from Baker’s Creek when you click over, the link for a free catalog is in the top right on the screen! Trust me, this is the only catalog you will need. They have great heirloom varieties – and their pictures will feed your gardener soul! Their prices are very reasonable for the amount of seeds you receive. (not an affiliate link We just love them 🙂
- Mulch. Now. Next year you can do this in the fall and it will be even better! If you have a deep mulch going in January:
- there will be no need to till in the spring, so you will be thankful for all of those spring rains- they will not hinder your planting schedule one bit!
- the ground will warm up earlier and there will be many, many worms working up the soil for you and adding nutrients for you while you sit inside drinking coffee. Or whatever else you need to be doing!
- weeds will not have a head start on you, come spring.
- it will save you so much time in planting next year you won’t believe it. You can thank me then!
- even if you are hell bent on tilling, it will be beneficial for all of that decomposed mulch to be tilled in, come spring.
- Finish your garden plan. Make sure you have a plan, drawn out on paper, that reserves a spot for enough of each vegetable, as well as herbs and flowers that you want to grow. This may seem like garden planning over-do now, but trust me, it will save you time and figuring later. Not to mention, the horror of running out of space before you get all of your stuff planted. Make a plan for early planted varieties as well as late, replacing the spent crops with fresh plantings.
- start your seed varieties that need the most time ie. onions, tomatoes, peppers
- Mulch any part of the garden that needs it. The mulch should be 4″ thick everywhere, after it’s all settled and starting to compost.
- Direct sow lettuce and salad greens, peas, beets, carrots, and radishes. You can also direct sow some onions for use as green onions
- Start seeds indoors for brassicas, and any others that you haven’t gotten to yet.
- Plant potatoes
- Thin your salad greens and lettuce and Enjoy your first salad of the year! (toward the end of the month)
- Direct sow another round of cut and come again lettuce and salad greens, also, any greens that you want more of as well as any other vegetable you planned to plant in succession
- Transplant brassicas into the garden
- Transplant onions
- Harvest the first of your cut and come again lettuce
- Transplant a few of your tomato plants ~ weather permitting, near the end of the month, and only as many as you can realistically cover if a frost does come.
- Sow the last of your cut and come again lettuce and greens, as well as the last of your other cool weather crops you have been planting in succession
- Harvest lettuce heads, radish, cut and come again salad greens, peas (toward the end of the month)
- Transplant the rest of your tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant
- Direct seed warm season vegetables like corn, beans, squash, cucumbers, melons, okra, rutabaga, and sweet potato etc.
- As plants come up, mulch around them as needed
- Keep everything mulched well as well as pulling or covering the stray weeds
- Continue to harvest cool season vegetables
- Continue to mulch/weed
- Keep an eye out for pests
- Water as needed
- Tie up tomato plants
- Pick “suckers” off of tomato plants see here for how to deal with suckers
- help your cucumbers and any other climbing vegetables to reach and secure themselves on their trellis
- Start enjoying your early harvests of squash, and maybe a cucumber or two, as well as a few handfuls of beans!
- Continue with June tasks
- Your tomatoes and peppers should start rolling in this month!
- Start seeding your cool season vegetables indoors, to transplant after the weather gets a bit cooler.
- Direct sow the fall crops that you aren’t going to transplant (Sometimes this needs to wait until August if the weather is extremely hot, with no sign of a break. This is a very tricky task in Missouri!!! You might even want to succession plant for extra insurance of a good crop)
- Continue with June and July’s maintenance tasks
- Direct seed any fall crops you didn’t get to in July
- Transplant any cool weather crops you’ve started indoors. Wait until a little break in the weather, if possible!
- Start planning and building any cold frames for winter greens and vegetables
- Continue with the regular garden maintenance
- Set up any cold frames that are going to be built directly in the garden
- Direct seed and/or transplant any fall crops that you plan on harvesting through the winter
- Sow the last round of any vegetables or greens that you are planting in succession
- Start enjoying salads again!
- Continue with the regular garden maintenance
- Start watching the weather for frosts
- When the weather threatens frost, harvest all of the vegetables that can’t handle it. Or, dig them up and bring indoors( as in the case of a few herb plants), Or, if the frost looks like it will only last a few nights, cover the plants you want to save.
- Start looking up recipes for all that squash!
- As you pull up crops, mulch heavily
- Continue with regular garden maintenance, which should be very slow by now
- Harvest salads, roots, and greens as needed.
- Harvest any root vegetable crops that you don’t intend to cover before any hard freeze
- As the weather gets colder, prepare to cover the crops you want to harvest all winter long. Here in Missouri this can happen anytime from the middle to end of November, to the middle of December!
- Continue to harvest crops that you have protected from freezes. . . a crisp, sweet salad in December is a luxury
And there you have it! A whole year of garden tasks, all laid out for you!
When to plant each crop
How much to plant of each vegetable to feed your family for the year
How to make a garden plan
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