A quick garden postcard: fresh January salad (and recipe)

Lettuce 'Freckles'

Lettuce ‘Freckles’

I peeked under my row cover yesterday to see how the greens are doing. What could be better than a fresh salad from the garden in January?

Lettuce grows quickly. This variety, ‘Freckles,’ can be harvested in 55 days from seed. The critical thing is to ensure it has steady moisture. With our unending rain, that hasn’t been a problem.

I’m going to toss this with a tablespoon each of dried cranberries and pecan pieces. I’ll top it off with some parmesan cheese, and dress it with olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, and pepper. I may throw in a few leaves of fresh thyme.

Try it. You’ll like it.

January gardening chores

You may have just gotten the last of your holiday houseguests out the door and the decorations packed away into the closet, and you were probably hoping to spend 10 minutes with a cup of coffee and the newspaper. Ha. It’s only 14 weeks until the last average frost date. You think you have time to sit around?

You wish. It’s time to get organized for spring.

First task: Go through that shoebox full of leftover seed packets. If you cannot remember when you purchased the seeds, throw them out. As for the rest, test their viability.

hollyhock seeds

Second task: Clean out the seed flats. Make sure you have enough potting soil and perlite. Winter sow your perennials and hardy annuals and get them out of your house.

Third task: Get out the garden notebook you faithfully kept last year (it was your New Year’s resolution, remember?) and consider your successes and failures. Which tomatoes performed brilliantly and tasted like the perfect summer day? Which ones (which looked so promising in the catalogue) tasted like cardboard and attracted aphids by the bucketful? Which of your experiments in the annual or perennial bed won your heart or turned your stomach? Make notes of the edibles and ornamentals you want to grow this year, and those you will not repeat. Clean out your seeds accordingly.

Fourth task: Look at your photos from last year, or your map of your garden beds (which you made so you won’t accidentally dig up your dormant plants), and analyze where the gaps are. What plants look great in their current spots, and which ones seem to suffer? Will one of those plants perform better if it gets more, or perhaps less, light? Make a plan to transplant poorly performing plants to better spots, and plan which plants to grow in their vacancies.

2014 catalogues, first harvest

The first harvest of the 2014 gardening catalogues.

Fifth task: If you are begging for a break, fine. Take that stack of gardening catalogues and magazines and a pack of post-it notes to the table, along with your coffee or tea. And bring along your maps and plans and notebooks. And something to write with, for goodness’ sake.

Using all of your accumulated data, choose the plants you can no longer live without. Circle them, flag them with the post-its, dog-ear the pages. Prioritize. Of course, you are not going to order more plants than for which you have identified space, because you have learned that lesson already, haven’t you? Plus, your budget is still on life support after the holidays, and wasn’t that another of your New Year’s resolutions, to stay on budget in your gardening pursuits?

Now place your plant orders. The nurseries will ship live plants at an appropriate planting time, but you don’t want to place your order late and find that the Uvularia grandiflora you desperately want, that will be just perfect in that spot near the door, has sold out (again). If you procrastinate you know where this will end: You will find a poor substitute on a clearance rack somewhere that you know will recover under your tender care, and you will plop it in the spot (never mind that it wants full sun and this gets three hours, at best, in the height of summer), and be shocked–shocked!–when it cries uncle six weeks hence.

Your garden is going to have its finest year ever. Your organization and discipline will pay off so handsomely in five months’ time that the local gardening clubs will be clamoring for your wisdom in lecture form, and the neighbors will be resentful because of the traffic slowing down to admire your handiwork.

Count on it.

 

 

Garden log, 1.4.15

Despite 70F (21C) temperatures today, it’s winter and I must govern myself accordingly in the garden. I went through the seed packets and found a handful of treasures to winter sow:

I’ll keep an eye on the anemones and spinach. For now, I’m growing the spinach in the cold frame, though I may transplant some of it into a larger bed as the month progresses. The anemones will need a second cold, moist period, so in late spring they’ll migrate to the refrigerator for a month or two. I hope to be able to transplant them to the garden this fall.

January here can be terribly unpredictable: This week, we’ll swing from a high of 70 to a high of 29F (-1.6C). I’m sure we had winter temperature swings when I was growing up, but I don’t remember anything like this. And we always had at least a few snows; that’s not a guarantee now. The more time I spend in the garden, the more I worry about climate change.

My snowdrops are blooming and the foliage of daffodils and crocus stands just above the mulch. I’m closer to my goal of having something in bloom all year round.

This year’s bumper crop of acorns has meant that the deer have stayed away up to now, but two days ago I saw seven (seven!) adult deer at once in the neighbor’s backyard. I hope my garden looks more trouble than it might be worth to them. Thinking more and more about the necessity of a fence, especially with Henry‘s addition to the household. Perhaps he’ll frighten off the squirrels and voles, who are making one heck of a mess in the soft, wet ground.

Garden log, 12.15.14

A quick reminder to myself that I sowed in-situ seeds of Nemophila discoidalis ‘Penny Black,’ Verbena bonariensis, Anagallis monellii, and Primula veris. I’ll try some in flats in my cold frame as well, later in the winter, but when it comes to seeds I find that plants do better with less intervention from me. We’ll see whether these follow the trend.

Work on shredding leaves continues. I hope to have a healthy pile of leaf mold come spring.