PLANNING THE SPRING GARDEN AND OTHER
Dr. Leonard Perryand
Extension Nursery and Greenhouse Crops Specialist
University of Vermont
Janus, who lends his name to the month
of January, was the dual-faced Roman god of gates and
doors. He also was called the god of beginnings as
it was commonly believed that you needed to go through
a door or gate in order to enter a new place or beginning.
The god was depicted as looking forward
and backwards at the same time--forward towards new
beginnings and back towards the past. It's an appropriate
symbol for this month as it's a time when gardeners
are thinking about last year's garden in order to look
ahead to the new growing season.
If you are like many gardeners, you probably
keep notes on annual seed and plant purchases, past
garden successes and failures, and even new things
to try. It's a good idea to review these before you
start planning your seed and equipment orders. Maps
of past gardens will help you rotate plants and avoid
overcrowding when planning spacing of plantings.
January is a good time to start a garden
journal or even just a file where you can store articles
clipped out of newspapers and magazines, or lists of
ideas you want to try in the garden. A good place to
get a few new ideas is by taking a class or joining
a garden club. Most gardeners love to talk about gardening
and won't mind sharing some of their tried and true
methods and products with you. Or apply to the University
of Vermont Extension Master Gardener program. For more
information, visit http://pss.uvm.edu/mg/mg/ or send
an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Next, check the seeds you saved and stored
from last year's garden. Discard anything that is damp,
diseased, moldy, or in otherwise bad condition. Look
over what's left, and determine what you need to order.
You also should take a look at squash,
potatoes, root crops, and other vegetables and fruits
in winter storage. Although conditions may have been
ideal when you harvested and stored them in the fall,
the cold, wet winter may make that location too wet
or damp. Toss anything that has spoiled or has soft
spots. The same goes for summer flower bulbs like dahlias
and gladioli that you saved to plant this year.
As many avid gardeners have discovered,
it's wise to plan your seed order with other gardeners.
This will allow you to save money while growing a wider
variety of crops and flowers. In addition, some seed
companies offer discounts or free seeds for early bird
and/or large orders. Just don't fall into the trap
of ordering more than you can use. That's where the
notes you kept from past years will be useful.
If you need to replace a tiller or want
to add a few new gardening tools to your inventory,
start comparison shopping in January. Granted, some
of this equipment won't be available for purchase in
garden centers for a few more months. But by studying
catalogs and magazines, talking to friends, and even
surfing the Internet now, you will have a better idea
of what you want and won't waste valuable time in the
spring deciding what to buy.
The same goes for landscape plants. Although
you wouldn't be able to plant them now, even if you
could buy them, this "down time" in gardening
is perfect for planning. Start thinking about what
you need to fill in gaps in your landscape or what
new plants you'd like to try. It may help to take a
walk around your property to visualize where landscape
improvements are needed or where you might put in a
new flower bed. Think about color, scents, textures,
and shapes. Then scout out companies that carry what's
on your wish list.
No yard or garden is complete without
statuary, gazing balls, sundials, and garden whimsies
that make the space uniquely yours. Shop now for what
you'll need in the spring to accessorize your lawn,
garden, and flower beds. Use your imagination.
This January get creative in the workshop.
Build a bat house or a birdhouse or two. Paint garden
furniture. Construct artificial lighting set-ups for
growing houseplants or starting transplants indoors.
Or install a composting bin in your basement, adding
a handful of red worms to turn your vegetable table
scraps into rich compost for the garden.
Other activities for January: visit the
Vermont Farm Show at the Barre Civic Center, Jan. 29-31;
start an amaryllis bulb for spring bloom; re-read a
favorite gardening book or start a new one that you
received as a holiday gift.