by Charlene Burgi
The first month of the year is already behind us. Though it still feels like winter to us, the plants are preparing to burst into spring. The days are getting longer, the evapotranspiration rates are beginning to elevate, and temperatures are slightly increasing. Are you ready for this transition?
February is a critical month in the garden. While the trees are still dormant we need to catch up with any pruning we’ve put off. The past rains were just wet enough to sprout weed seeds. Sheet mulch now before the weeds grow out of control. If you have never had the experience of sheet mulching, plan on attending our free workshop on February 17 from 10:00 a.m. to noon. I guarantee that once you start to sheet mulch you will be hooked for life!
The nurseries will begin planting up their bare root stock by March, so now is the time to purchase fruit trees, roses, asparagus, artichokes, berries and deciduous shade trees. Start preparing the garden for an early planting of seed potatoes, onions, garlic, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and early peas. Use a garden cloth to help protect these young starts from birds, deer, rabbits, frost and wind by covering hoops made from wire coat hangers with the garden cloth and securing the cloth to the ground with jute stakes. If space is an issue, consider growing a vertical garden by staking nylon mesh on six-foot poles. This will be an excellent idea for the summer garden containing tomatoes, beans, cukes, melons and peas. Meanwhile, start those summer veggies from seed now.
Check the irrigation system for leaks, breaks and clogged emitters. General winter maintenance is needed as earwigs and other insects love to take up residence in those little orifices of your sprinkler system. Also check your overhead spray system to make sure the spray is directed to the root zone of your plants and not the sidewalk or driveway!
If all your chores are done, and you are interested in learning more about rainwater catchment, plan to join us for a FREE day-long workshop on February 18 in Mill Valley. This is an introductory class with more to follow, if interested, February 20-23.
The Organic Way
A few weeks ago I suggested mixing up a soilless mixture for planting seedlings. One of our readers recommended that I offer alternatives to perlite and vermiculite, which require mining for the product. I did some research (I love it when you challenge me) and found you can use woodchips mixed with compost from the garden. The woodchips will create the needed air space and provide good drainage. Woodchips will break down in time and provide nutrients to the seeds that would not be available if using perlite and vermiculite. I would caution that woodchips and homegrown compost are not sterile ingredients and could potentially introduce fungus to the detriment of your seed productivity.
There is a lot to do, but remember to take time to enjoy the moment and your surroundings.