Optimism in January

by Abby Lambert

 

As an avid backyard gardener, I love the month of January. Why would I like one of the most cold and dreary months of the year? Because I’m a planner, and January is the perfect time to plan for the upcoming year’s garden.

My home (with its small yard) is located in a well-shaded neighborhood, so vegetable gardening can be challenging. No place in my yard gets more than six hours of direct sunshine each day in the summer. Knowing this, I’ve given up trying to grow melons and other vegetables that require lots of sun. I stick to the reliable favorites: beans, kale, tomatoes and assorted greens.

I have a simple system of crop rotation in my small growing area: legumes, alliums, cucurbits and brassicas are thoughtfully moved around each year to keep plant diseases from flourishing. Accompanying the rotation are random plantings of greens, herbs and companion flowers.

Last year I took a stab at vertical gardening, attempting to grow cucumbers and mini pumpkins on trellises to save space. This wasn’t as successful as I’d hoped – there was so much foliage in places that I almost needed a machete to cleave my way through the garden. In an another attempt to save space, I planted tomatoes in containers along the driveway. Morning glory vines from the neighbor’s yard engulfed the planters, and an onslaught of slugs polished off the few straggling tomatoes.

Undaunted by last year’s failures, I’m planning the 2014 garden with renewed vigor. Using a multi-year color-coded zone map of my yard (I did say I’m a planner!), my grandson and I have calculated the rotations and have determined where seeds will be sown. Garden catalogues grace the living room coffee table. Nitrogen levels in compost are discussed. Worm bins are prepped for new inhabitants.

This will be the year of bountiful harvest!  How are you planning for 2014?

 

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