Monthly Garden To-Do List
- Curling up with a good seed catalog on a snowy day is one of the pleasures of living in central New York. There are a lot of seed catalogs. My favorite is Fedco because it has tons of information with creatively impish drawings. They also are a cooperative that believes that people and environment are more important than profits. You can search for seed catalogs online and order a few to come to your home or just look online.
It's fun to think about the beautiful garden of your dreams but there is also the reality that you will be limited by some things such as time, location and weather. For more about what to consider read this article in Devine Chatter
Valentine's Day is coming so love your houseplants and make up a batch of Tina's Tea. Your plants can sense the days are getting longer and are starting to grow. It's been a long winter for your them too and they could use a pick me up. Near the bottom of my website page is the directions to make tea
Have you ever wondered what the USDA Hardiness Zone Map was all about? How about growing days? Learn about them at Devine Chatter. Please read, very important - don't freeze your plants!
You've been looking over your seed catalogs and now is a good time to decide what you want to grow. Plant what you love to eat. Some vegetables are more hardy than others and there are more cold tolerant varieties within a vegetable group. An example is hot peppers seem to be hardier than sweet peppers. Our friends at Cornell University have compiled a list of vegetable varieties that grow well in New York State. Our friends at Cornell University have compiled a list of vegetable varieties that grow well in New York State. Fedco, located in Vermont, has a handy vegetable planting guide also.
It's easy to get excited about putting the first seeds in the ground but if you plant too early you'll risk seeds rotting in cold soil, plants freezing and wasting your time and money. Soil temperatures are extremely important for seed germination. For example spinach seeds at 40 degrees take 23 days to germinate and only 12 days at 50 degrees. Green beans at 59 degrees take 16 days to germinate and only 8 days at 77 degrees. I have had green bean seeds rot in the ground because I tried to plant them when the soil was too cool. Tomato seeds take 43 days at 50 degrees and 8 days at 68 degrees.
You've been thinking about your future garden. Go outside and observe your land. The view of a winter landscape is simpler. You may notice things that you hadn't in the lush green of summer. Are there areas that could use a shrub or tree? Maybe it's time to make changes, take out some old plants and bring in something totally new that you've always liked. Take the time to appreciate the beauty of winter. If you don't have a yard, take a walk or drive to a park and be with nature. How about visit a nearby community garden?
You’ve thought about what you want to grow and where to put your garden. Now let’s think about designing your garden. Size and shape will depend on how much you’ve decided to grow. Some plants take up a lot of room like corn and pumpkins while others have a small footprint like greens. What to put where? Space it out. Cornell Cooperative Extension made a handy chart showing how much room is needed in between plants, in between rows and estimated yields. So, get out your pencil and paper, have some fun and see what you come up with.
Companion Planting Guide - Companion Planting reminds me of trying to figure out where to seat people for a formal dinner. We sure don't want Uncle Turnip arguing with Aunt Lettuce! Here is a handy concise guide. There is tons of information on the internet but sometimes you just gotta say "Can't we all just get along?"
- Plant your seeds earlier by warming up your garden soil up to 5 degrees by laying down black plastic (nice idea with this cold spring). Secure the plastic with landscape staples, wood, rocks, etc. Black plastic will block the sun and kill some weeds too. Clear plastic will act like a greenhouse and encourage the growth of any weeds
- Remember to stock up on vermicompost so that you have it on hand when planting your seeds outside. It will help with germination rates and get the plant off to a healthy start
- The earliest vegetables can begin to be planted after your soil is warmer than 35 degrees. Early season examples are spinach, lettuce, and peas. To extend the production times try successive planting which is planting seeds over a few weeks. Make sure to wait for the soil to be warm enough. I most likely will be planting these veggies starting April 5th - 12th.
- It's a good time to think about your garden soil. Is it light but still holds moisture? Good quality compost will improve the moisture holding ability, drainage, and structure of clay & sandy soils. It will also add nutrients and valuable microorganisms.
- Save your eggshells? It's true that eggshells contain calcium and many gardeners save them to add to soil especially when planting tomato transplants. If you do, finely grind the shells so that the calcium can become available quicker than with bigger pieces. It is also true that tomato plants tend to get blossom end rot from a lack of calcium. But usually, the problem isn't a lack of calcium in the soil but a lack of consistent watering. (Calcium is transported by water) It's always a good idea to make sure tomato plants are watered regularly but not over watered.
- When the soil temperature is above 40 degrees you can safely plant radish, carrots, beets, turnips, and onions. It works well to plant these in succession. Plant the carrots, beets, and turnips now and for a fall crop plant in June - July. Because I live in a colder microclimate I'll wait to plant until later April. It's also a good time to start some basil inside.
- You can get a jump on cucumbers and squash type plants including summer, zucchini, winter, and pumpkins by starting inside 4 weeks before you would like to plant into the garden. Plant kale and mustard outdoors in later April.
- Plant potatoes when the soil is between 55 and 60 degrees.
Composting is simply breaking down organic matter. Two types of composting are cool composting and thermophilic composting. Read more about them at Devine Chatter.
Thinking about buying compost? Read these tips to learn how to choose quality compost at Devine Chatter.
- Plant cilantro, dill, and parsley outside. To prevent parsley from spreading like a weed, plant it in a pot and bury the pot. If your soil is warmer than 50 degrees it's okay to plant broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts, and cauliflower.
- Mulching is covering the soil with a thin layer of material to block weeds, retain moisture, increase nutrients and microbes in the soil and/or for appearance sake. There are different reasons to use mulch and different types of mulches. Learn more at Devine Chatter.
- Is your soil at 60 degrees yet? If it is then it's okay to plant corn, beans, cucumbers and squash including pumpkins. Beans are another good vegetable that you can plant over the span of a few weeks to extend the production time.
- If you're buying new perennials, trees or shrubs or relocating old ones remember how important it is to give them a nice home. Mix in up to 1/3 of Super Grow Compost Blend into the soil mix when planting.
- Plant tomato plants after all danger of frost are over. Look at the extended forecast for guidance. If your tomato plants are in the ground and frost is forecasted, do you have a way to protect them? They will need to be covered. Five-gallon buckets or similar containers will work. Their growth will be severely delayed by cooler temperatures.
- You should be okay to plant basil and oregano. But pepper and eggplants are heat loving plants. They do not like the cold and their growth will be stunted. Wait, wait, wait until summer weather is here to stay before planting.
- Put cut off buckets or pots around your tomato plants to shelter them from wind and keep them a little warmer at night. It makes watering them easier because you just water inside the pots so you're only watering the tomato plant and not wasting water. Best of all your cute little puppy dog or kitty cat won't lay on them. See how happy Charlie is? I have read that this will also protect plants from cutworms.
Bake a pan of Rhubarb Cobbler. Plain, old-fashioned goodness. Get the recipe at Devine Chatter. What's your favorite rhubarb recipe?
- You may have most of your gardens planted. If not, don't be discouraged. We are just getting to the really warm weather that the tomatoes, peppers, beans, corn, and cucurbits (squashes) love. Seedlings are a good idea if you are running behind.
Weeding never stops. I honestly enjoy weeding except that I don't have time to weed all that needs to be done. One of my favorite tools for weeding is called the Hooke n' Crooke and is made by a small company in West Burlington, NY. It slices through the top of soil and "pulls" weeds out. It also has is narrow enough to go around and in between plants. He usually sells at the Herb & Flower Show and I'm hoping he comes again this year. For a link to his website click here.
Do you Cherish Your Roots? Read about why you should at Devine Chatter.
- Pick vegetables like peas, beans, cucumbers, summer squashes and the like often before they get overripe. When vegetables are overripe the plant puts its energy into making the seeds instead of its fruits. The more you pick the more the plant will produce. Pick younger vegetables and they will be more tender too. For herbs like basil and cilantro pinch off the seed heads and keep the plant short and stubby. They will produce more.
- If you are a beginning gardener how is your garden doing? How are you doing? Are you feeling overwhelmed? Try to remember that gardening is a fun hobby. If it doesn't get done this year then maybe it will get done next year. Here's an idea if you feel lost. Help out at a community garden. You'll be working with experienced gardeners and can see how to take care of the plants instead of just reading about it.
- Remember that your plants need more water during hot spells like this. You may want to move some of your sun-loving potted plants to a shadier place until the heat wave is over.
- There are basically 3 types of tomatoes determinate, indeterminate and semi-determinate. Find out about the different types and how to prune tomatoes at Devine Chatter.
- If you're growing garlic remember to cut the scapes off. The scapes are what will eventually become the stem to the seed head. If you allow the garlic to produce a seed head then it's putting energy into growing the seed head instead of the bulb. You want big, fat garlic heads so chop off the scapes!
- Now is a good time to plant carrots, beets, and turnips. By planting them in early July they will be ready to harvest after there is a frost. This will improve flavor and you'll have yummy, healthy vegetables into March.
- Striped Cucumber Beetles got you down? Maybe another insect? Or how about some rotten fungal infections? Get help - make vermicompost tea. Learn how on Devine Gardens website page https://devine-gardens.com/pages/how-to and scroll down.
- Hopefully, your garden needs less weeding because your plants are covering the soil. You'll be doing yourself a favor by keeping up on it. Never, never let a weed go to seed in your garden.
- When growing potatoes are exposed to the sun they turn green. Prevent this by hilling which is hoeing soil up around the plant. Hill potatoes when they are 6 - 8 inches tall and again in a couple of weeks. You can hill them up a couple more times for extra protection.
- Crispy oven baked zucchini is mouth watering and one of my favorite summer foods. For my recipe go to https://devine-gardens.com/blogs/news.
- Keep weeding - don't let anything go to seed unless you want to see a lot of it next year.
- If your plants look tired remember to give feed them vermicompost or give them a refreshing drink of sweet vermicompost tea.
- Dig up garlic after the bottom leaves turn brown. Gently shake off the dirt and let them dry out of the sun and rain where they will get a lot of air circulation. Store in a cool, dark place (forty degrees is best but I just use my garage and hope it's good enough).
- Keep hilling potatoes if you see them poking through the ground. As the leaves die back don't let the potatoes become exposed to the sun.
- Plant spinach or lettuce for a fall crop.
- Prune dead raspberry canes and thin them out.
- Pick vegetables regularly to encourage more vegetable growth. Plants want to reproduce by making new seeds. Don't let them go to seed and they will keep trying to reproduce by growing more veggies.
- Save Your Veggies - This is what I do with extra veggies that will be available in August in my garden.
- Zucchini and summer squash - shred and freeze for recipes including chocolate zucchini cake, zucchini bread, zucchini fritters, add to meatballs, meatloaf, spaghetti sauce, chop and freeze for soups and stews, grill or bake and freeze. Grilled or baked zucchini is delicious in a wrap with cheese, meat (think leftovers), and a pesto or horseradish sauce.
- Green beans - blanch and freeze
- Cucumbers - make pickles
- Tomatoes - core the stem, quarter and freeze. This is so quick and easy. In the cold weather use to make sauce, soup, stews, goulash, chili. The tomatoes smell like freshly picked when you open the freezer bag.
- Basil - make pesto and freeze
- Cabbage - make sauerkraut, kimchi or quarter and freeze and use for boiled dinner, add to soups or whatever.
- Make tonic - for the past two years I have drank this tonic over cold and flu season. I used to get a nice case of bronchitis almost every winter or at least a really bad cold. Since I've been drinking this tonic - no bad cold for me. When I start to feel off I take a shot and follow it up with some water with a little apple cider vinegar added. To make the tonic taste better you can add fruit juice and some natural honey. My husband and daughter also drink it. See Devine Chatter for the recipe https://devine-gardens.com/blogs/news/healthy-tonic
- Keep Weeding - don't let anything go to seed unless you want to see a lot of it next year.
- As plants die off remove them from the garden
- Plant garlic https://devine-gardens.com/blogs/news/growing-garlic-is-easy
- Make and freeze pumpkin puree. There is no comparison to the taste of canned pumpkin versus your own pumpkin or locally grown from a market or stand. If you haven't tried it then you should and it's very easy to do. Wash pumpkin.Split in half and clean out inside. Place face down on a pan, cookie sheets work great for this.Bake at 250 until the pumpkin feels soft and smooshy when you touch it and it has started to collapse. Take out of the oven and let cool.Using a spoon, scoop away the pumpkin from the shell. Place pumpkin in a colander to drain away excess liquid. Optional: if you want the puree extra smooth you may want to put through a food processor. I like that it has some texture and think it improves pumpkin pie. That's it. You can use the pumpkin puree now or freeze for later. I freeze it in 2 cup amounts for future recipes. The taste and texture will be much better if you use "pie" pumpkins not the kind for jack-o-lanterns.
- Store onions – after the leaves have shriveled when there are a few sunny dry days forecast gently pull the onions out of the ground. Treat the newly picked onions like eggs because they bruise easily. Leave them on the surface a few days to dry. Carefully, move them to a spot where they will have good circulation but will stay dry. Spread the onions out in a single layer with air space in between to continue drying. After a couple of weeks spread them out inside in a darker space but still with good air flow. Trim the roots and stems. After they have hardened off separate any onions that have green tops, are doubles or are still soft. Use these first. For ventilation store the onions in old pantyhose, baskets or mesh bags like what they are sold in. Store at 40 - 50 degrees in a dark, dry spot. Make sure you are using long storing varieties for winter storage.
- Store potatoes – Thick skinned varieties of potatoes store better than thin-skinned. Gently dig potatoes up. Gently rub extra soil away but don’t clean them before storing. Lay them on newspaper or an old sheet in a dark, cool spot. 50 – 60 degrees is recommended but do the best you can (my cellar is not that cool yet) Keep them away from light so they don’t turn green. After about 2 weeks the potatoes are ready for storage. Sort out any that have soft spots or imperfections to eat sooner. Gently arrange the storable potatoes in baskets, bins or cardboard boxes with holes for air. The ideal temperature to store potatoes is 40 – 55 degrees with 95% humidity. Just do your best at matching those conditions. I know my cellar is not that humid. In the past, I have left a lot of soil on my root vegetables and I think it helps to keep them better.
- November is get it done in the garden month or it just isn't going to get done (unless December is nicer than November)
- Clean out and organize the garden shed or area where garden supplies are stored.
- Pick up gardening supplies, clean off mud and debris, store for next spring.
- Dig up root vegetables. I like to wait until the frost and a light snowfall has come because I think it makes the sweeter. Cut off the tops. Gently clean off loose dirt. Store in a wheelbarrow or plastic totes in an unheated garage, cellar or an unheated closet. They prefer temperatures in the 34 - 40 range.
- Last month the to-do list included removing dead plants but don't clean up too well. It's a good idea to leave some vegetation in the garden to feed the soil life during warmer winter days.
- You still have time to plant garlic https://devine-gardens.com/blogs/news/growing-garlic-is-easy or other bulbs.
- Dig up tender bulbs such as dahlia and store for winter. If winter comes first I have had good luck covering them up with mulch, mounded soil or pieces of old bales of hay.
- Give perennial plants such as strawberries, asparagus, rhubarb, and raspberry plants a layer of compost so they are all set to go in the spring.
- Make something with pumpkin. Pumpkins aren't just for pie. Add the pulp to pancakes, soups, stews, chilis, hummus dips and be creative. Use pumpkins as a vegetable like you would squash. They are delicious roasted with spices of your choice. One of my favorite recipes is Sour Cream Pumpkin Coffee Cake. Here's the recipe from a few years ago https://devine-gardens.com/blogs/news/sour-cream-pumpkin-coffeecake-recipe
- Write down garden notes to include:
- What grew well and what didn't
- The growing season weather
- Where things were planted to rotate plants next year
- What was planted
- Did you plant too much of something and not enough of the other? From the picture above you can see that I planted too many potatoes. I like giving them away to friends and family but it means I have less space for other things or I have to expand the garden = more work!
A list of things we can do for ourselves during busy December when the days are getting shorter and sometimes the expectations of the holidays can become overwhelming.
- Light candles
- Make healthy soup. If you have any vegetables from the garden that you froze, canned or in your makeshift root cellar remember to use them
- Buy a live tree, wreath or centerpiece that smells real. Rub the sap on your wrist and smell it often
- Bundle up and get outside. Take walks, shovel the walkways, throw snow at your pets
- Feed the birds
- Get out your favorite cuddly blanket, get a cup of tea, read something wonderful
- Bake a batch of Christmas cookies
- Eat a healthy breakfast - oatmeal with yogurt and a dollop of pumpkin butter. (try organic oatmeal from Gianforte's Farm, Cazenovia, NY)