Plan for the New Year

Follow these timely gardening tips in order to plan for the new year.

| December 2005/January 2006

Cold Frame

Harvest lettuce and other greens in the middle of winter by planting them in a cold frame, which uses sheets of glass or clear plastic to capture the sun’s heat.

Photo courtesy MOTHER EARTH NEWS editors

Maritime Canada & New England

New England gardens are covered in a protective blanket of snow, but the arrival of new seed catalogs kindles distant memories of butter-tender broccoli and succulent tomatoes, as well as great ideas for holiday gifts. Two of my favorite products are the ho-mi or E-Z digger, an oriental hand tool with a curved blade that can bust sod or delicately cover a seed row, and Wet Stop gloves, which are exceptionally flexible and lightweight. Favorite vegetable varieties I plan to plant in 2006 include: Purple Peacock, a beautiful broccoli and kale cross with sweet broccoli florets; Cool Breeze cucumbers, which produce nonbitter pickling cukes; Papaya Pear, a deep-gold summer squash that holds its form well when cooked; and Jimmy Nardello frying peppers, which ripen early in a northern climate and are sublime when fried or roasted.

 — Roberta Bailey, FEDCO Seeds, Waterville, Maine 


December is the month for gardeners to read seed catalogs and inspiring garden books. You can find free seed-saving guides from Sort and inventory your seeds and store them in a cool, dry place. If you have a young person on your holiday list, consider giving the gift of gardening — your time and some fun seeds such as sunflowers, cherry tomatoes and pole beans. By mid-January, sow bulbing onion seeds in the greenhouse or cold frame. They are a challenge in our region, and the secret is to start them early and transplant them before they reach the diameter of a pencil. Or skip the hassle and grow yellow potato onions, the most reliably productive variety in the region. Inspect any root crops and squash you have in storage. Clean and repair the rototiller and other garden tools. Finish weeding and mulching rhubarb, asparagus, grapes, blueberries, currants and gooseberries.

 — Ira Wallace, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, Mineral, Va. 

Southern Interior

Gardeners in coastal Georgia and in South Carolina as far north as Hilton Head Island can grow cool-season greens in December and January. In some areas of Florida, its still not too late for warm-season crops such as tomatoes. The rest of us can get the garden ready for early spring planting. Be sure that the soil acidity is correct and add lime or other amendments if necessary. Add compost, and in areas where you will plant early spring crops, turn under cover crops so they have a chance to decompose. Start cole crops such as cabbage and broccoli inside to transplant in the early spring. Plan your vegetable garden and order your seeds early for the best selection.

 — Becky Wilder, Seeds For the South, Graniteville, S.C. 

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