January Gardening?

catalogs galore

catalogs galore

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

The seed catalogs appear in the mailbox daily now. Today we ordered seeds for broccoli, brussel sprouts, radishes (both red and the long white variety), lettuce, Swiss chard, parsley, basil, and flowers. However, the catalogs came a little late for onions. After consultation with Llewellyn’s 2013 Moon Sign Book, my husband determined the best time to start the seeds was in the waning days of 2012.

So while we were in Florida over Christmas, my husband began sprouting onion seeds. He buys the cheapest and thinnest paper towels and places a layer of seeds on one sheet. Then he piles sheet upon sheet until the top of the plastic container is full. He dampens the towels with water and keeps the container in a warm place. He treated his package as if it was a pet, carrying it inside wherever we visited and adding water as necessary to keep the towels damp.

the sprouts after ten days in damp paper towels

the sprouts after ten days in damp paper towels

This year he sprouted seven varieties of onions – both short and long day types – of yellow, white, and red.

By the time we arrived back in Pennsylvania, the seeds had sprouted in their paper towel womb. The thin paper towel helps those tiny little sprouts from sticking to the layers.

A week ago, he put the seedlings into four-pack containers filled with regular potting soil with a very small quantity of organic and rock fertilizers. He uses a five-gallon bucket for soil (two-thirds filled) and throws in a handful of the fertilizers. Once the packs are filled with dirt, he pokes holes in each section with a pencil.

pencil poking

pencil poking

Then he “pokes” the onion seedlings into the soil.

poking onion sprouts

poking onion sprouts

Now the seedlings are growing happily under grow lights in cupboards in our family room. Unfortunately, we don’t have a heated greenhouse, but we’ve found a way to manage.

minutes in soil

minutes in soil

a week later after living in a cupboard under grow lights (set on a timer)

a week later after living in a cupboard under grow lights (set on a timer)

Now we await the shipment of the rest of the seeds. Some seeds, such as tomatoes, peppers, and butternut squash, he’s kept from last year’s crop. But he’ll still get some new seeds, even though each year I tell him more than twenty healthy tomato plants are way too much for two people unless I set up a roadside stand.

How about you? Are you sprouting seeds, looking at catalogs, waiting for the nurseries to open with plants, or anticipating the local farmer’s market in your area? Whatever you do, locally grown food is always the best choice.

last year's crop we're enjoying this winter

last year’s crop we’re enjoying this winter

Note: We recycle the magazines when we’re done with them each year. We also reuse all the four- and six-pack containers as well as the trays.

14 thoughts on “January Gardening?

  1. I ordered my seeds over the weekend and am now anxiously awaiting the packages in the mail! last year I started my onions in early February, and they were still quite small when I planted them out, so I want to start them earlier this year. I won’t get quite as much of a head start as you did, but I’ll try to start them as soon as the seeds arrive.

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  2. Really enjoy your blog! Hope you are feeling better!

    We live in Northern California so we plant our onions in October. Surprising this years onion crop is still alive and doing well with all the frost we are experiencing. Last years crop did very well until it was time to dry them. We wanted to dry them for future use. Not sure where we went wrong. We pulled them from our beds let them air dry outside up to a week in a shady spot then hung them in our garage, after awhile some of them became soft and rotten …strange. We’ve since learned you can leave the onions in the ground and pull them as needed, we’ll see. This is our 4th year of gardening with raised beds, it’s a constant and rewarding learning experience.

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    • We also use raised beds. We bring our onions in (we’re in western PA) and lay them on newspapers in the basement. Sometimes we’ll cut into one and there’s some brown in the center, but the rest in usable. You are getting some strange weather this year but then again we all are. Even experienced gardeners struggle with figuring it all out. Thanks for dropping by!

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  3. Sounds like you are ready for spring. I, too, am anxious for planting time to get here. I’m still mulling over what I want to plant this year. I know that we want to grow more of crops we can either can or freeze.

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    • We like to do that as well. I’m excited about this long white radish we’ve ordered. It’s supposed to be wonderful as a roasted vegetable. Also, talked hubby into trying fennel, another vegetable I love to roast. I know you’ll keep me posted on your results. When can you start planting in CA? Are you staying warm?

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    • At what stage do they die? Are you giving them too much fertilizer or too little? We had problems with peas last year when we planted them in mushroom compost – too much too soon. If you give me more information, I’ll see if my husband has a suggestion.

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  4. I started looking at catalogs too. In fact, now that I read your post, I’m wondering what I did with my catalog! It must be in the bedroom on the night table. I want to grow artichokes. I love them but the store bought prices keep going up and the quality keeps going down. I buy my seeds at Meijer and Menards but I don’t remember if they sell artichoke seeds. I’ve also bought seeds from catalogs but haven’t had as much luck with them. Anyway, herbs have taken over my garden. I will have to pull and throw away a lot in order to make room for new veggies. I hate to throw anything away. My alternative is to make my garden bigger. Hopefully, we’ll have a long Spring where the weather will be cool enough and dry enough to get some needed outdoor work done. That hasn’t been the case in past Springs though : – ( Hope you’re feeling better P.C.

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    • Artichokes! Keep me posted on that. I’m feeling some better. I now have a diagnosis (liver is producing bad proteins), but neurologist can only treat the symptoms so I’m on meds for the numbness and pain in my feet and hands. I see a liver doctor next week to work on the cause. In the meantime, I’m doing yoga, tai chi, drinking licorice root tea, drinking fruit smoothies with brewers yeast, and on and on. I’ll do all the natural remedies I can, while listening to the doctors.

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