Seasonal Tips for Gardening Zones December 2003-January 2004

Carol Mack shares important seasonal tips for gardening zones in New England/Maritime Canada, Mid-Atlantic, Southern Interior, the Gulf Coast, Central/Midwest, North Central and Rockies, Pacific Northwest and the Southwest.

| December 2003/January 2004

  • Timely gardening tips for where you live.
    Timely gardening tips for where you live.
    Illustration by Diane A. Rader

  • Timely gardening tips for where you live.

Learn about current December and January seasonal tips for gardening zones in the U.S.

New England/Maritime Canada Gardening

All is quiet in the garden. The garlic sleeps under its thick blanket of mulch and the compost pile has cooled. Unless you have a cold frame within a greenhouse where greens still can be picked, not much is happening in the garden. My New Year's resolution is to remember just how busy it gets in May and June. One or two new-projects are OK, but 20 are a lot of work. For holiday gifts, I am putting dried herbs in bottles with homemade labels: tarragon, Thai basil, sweet basil, oregano, garlic powder, summer savory and my own salad herb blend. The fresh flavors are a hit. Make garlic powder by peeling and halving the cloves. Dry them in the oven on very low heat or use a dehydrator. Grind in a food processor, with the finest setting of a meat grinder or with an electric coffee grinder. Homemade garlic powder is very pungent and makes a great tasting substitute for fresh garlic.

Mid-Atlantic Gardening

For now, spring gardening is a dream — the only sign of spring is the garden seed catalogs in your mailboxes. Snowy days are perfect for garden planning, or oiling and sharpening garden tools. Make sure the greenhouse is in good repair and you have lots of available cold-frame space to harden off plants when the time comes. When the temperature is above 40 degrees, you can open cold frames to harvest some greens. Be sure to order seed for bulb onions, early lettuce and early peppers right away so you can get them started in mid January. `Thai 88 Oakleaf lettuce and `Early Yellow Globe' onion grow well for us. Make a New Year's resolution to start your transplants from seed this year (if you don't already). It will open up a whole new world of wonderful varieties not otherwise available.

Southern Interior Gardening

The last leaves seem to hang on until after Thanksgiving — you can get them all in one raking if you wait. If you are really energetic, shred or mow them with your lawn mower. If you're feeling less than frisky, pile the leaves in a gully or hidden corner of the garden to rot, and come back in a year or so to harvest some rich compost! Here in the South, early December is the perfect time for planting garlic. Sow lettuce and cool-weather greens now for winter salads. Make this the year to try succession planting. For quick reference, write what to plant and when to plant it on the kitchen calendar. If you like mild, only slightly acidic tomatoes, try growing `Razzleberry' next season; its sturdy stems will be loaded with tasty, pink fruit.

Gulf Coast Gardening

Don't let the occasional cold night slow you down — this is a busy time in the garden and orchard. Just keep the frost blankets handy and the greenhouse or cold frame in good working order. Continue to plant cool-season vegetables like lettuce, radishes and greens. Also, don't neglect the orchard — planting and pruning are major chores this time of year. Blustery, cold days make it hard to contemplate that it will soon be time to start transplants for the spring garden. Early-bird gardeners often set out the first tomatoes in mid-February, so you'll need to start seed in early to mid January. Varieties 'Dona,' 'Carmello' and `Champion' are excellent for this region. However, they're not readily available as transplants so you'll have to start your own from seed. Resolve to grow at least one heirloom tomato variety this year`Purple Calabash' and `Georgia Streak' are worth trying in Gulf Coast gardens.

Central/Midwest Gardening

Much of your winter gardening will be spent looking through windows at the sleeping garden — redesign it now with this in mind. Vertical elements in the garden — whether built or grown — can create visual interest throughout the season, but take on an extra sculptural dimension when they're covered by a blanket of snow. Although you may be relaxing and enjoying the fruits of your last harvest, seed companies already are hard at work. Now is the time to request seed catalogs, and prepare a list of what you will need so you are organized when the garden springs to life. Watch for new items for the upcoming season: All America Selections, Fleuroselect and Perennial Plant Association winners usually are worth trying. These associations have tested their winners in gardens around the world for the past few seasons; the plants they recommend should be successful in many climates.

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