Georgia Garden Girl

Garden Great in Zone 8!

Take Stock and Carry On

on January 6, 2013

The beginning of January.  The promise of a new year, fresh, with no mistakes in it.  Yet.  I have managed to keep most of my resolutions thus far: pay more attention to skincare regimen; floss more regularly; keep poinsettias alive to see if 2013 will finally be the year I can actually reuse them at Christmas time.  But the most exciting thing for me about the new year is preparing for my spring/summer garden.  Anticipation may be the best part of it.  Looking through seed catalogs, perusing my stock of saved seeds, imagining the taste of that first Cherokee Purple tomato.  And I have one more year’s worth of gardening experience—so of course this year will be even better than last year.

Early January is an excellent time to take stock and plan ahead.  What worked well last year?  What didn’t?  What new things do you want to try this year?  What new things do you have to try this year?  Do you want to start a vegetable garden for the first time?  Do you need to reduce the amount you spend on irrigation?  Did you have any major changes, like the loss of a large shade tree, that demand a transition in your plantings?

For me, I had pretty good success last year.  I did eat green beans twice a day, every day for a month, so I may scale back on those by planting one four foot row instead of two.  And I was overrun with eggplants, so I will plant four instead of eight.  I had enough okra, cucumbers, bell peppers, jalapeños, collards, broccoli, snow peas, herbs, zinnias, daisies, dahlias, vincas, and coleus—I’ll probably stick with the same number of plants this year.  As for tomatoes, I love trying new varieties, so I’ll increase the number of plants.  I’m running out of room in my official vegetable garden behind my carport, so I’ll have to try growing them in the front yard (my mama says it’s tacky to plant tomatoes in the front yard, but I’ll put them behind the knock-out roses.  She’ll never know).

The only thing that did not work well last year was squash.  I cannot grow squash.  I till the earth, I add compost, I make a mound, I plant the seeds, I mulch, I irrigate, I fertilize, and I pray.  And every year, I have a beautiful group of squash plants with lovely blossoms and sweet little baby squash.  But every year, before those squash babies are ripe, each plant withers up and dies overnight.  The culprit?  My evil nemesis, the squash borer.  With all due respect to E.O. Wilson, that is one bug whose disappearance would not be a great loss to the diversity of life.  I’ve tried the soda bottle collars and diatomaceous earth.  I’ve tried looking for the eggs and washing them off.  I’ve tried looking for the places where the insect has bored into the stem so that I can cut it out.  Last year, in a fit of desperation, I even tried Sevin Dust (no offense to those of you who swear by pesticides, but I’m more of an integrated pest management girl, and to me Sevin Dust is a “nuclear option”).  Even that didn’t work.  Last summer, after the squash plants imploded despite my deployment of the nuclear option, I talked with organic farmers at various farmer’s markets I visited.  They had lots of quirky suggestions, but the one piece of common advice was that I should start the seeds earlier than I had in the past.  I had interpreted the “do not sow until danger of frost has passed” warning on the seed packet to mean that I should not sow the seeds outside until after the last average frost date, which is the date after which there is only a 10% chance of frost.  These farmers did not wait nearly that late.  Instead, they only waited until the 50% date (note: I love footnotes—bad lawyer habit—but I think parentheticals might work better for a blog, though they’re still annoying—sorry.  For more info on frost dates, check out the frost date calendar from Dave’s Garden; you can also check out the primary data from the National Climatic Data Center, but Dave’s calculator is a lot easier).  This year, I’m going to follow the farmers’ advice and plant the squash around my 50% date, March 23.  I’m also going to study the excellent book my mother got me for Christmas – Good Bug, Bad Bug by Jessica Walliser.  I’m optimistic that I’ll be so overrun with squash that I will make zucchini bread and squash casserole for my whole neighborhood.

Now that I’ve reviewed my “lessons learned,” I need to take an inventory of the seeds I purchased during years past, as well as the seeds I saved last season.  I might also take a look at some seed catalogs just to see if anything new catches my eye.  Another good thing to try: a seed swap.  Most seed packets contain more seeds than a typical home gardener needs in a year.  If you want two Cherokee Purple plants, you do not need thirty seeds.  The good news is that most seeds can be saved for a year or two (or three).  Another option: have a seed swap with your friends.  Just remember to label your seeds!

When I take the seed inventory, I will update my annual spreadsheet.  I know.  Nerdy.  But it really helps.  I can look at the spreadsheet and see what seeds I have, what I seeds need to purchase, how many seeds I want to plant, whether the seed is direct sow or must be started indoors, and where I plan to plant each type of plant.  I can also have the spreadsheet tell me when I need to start seeds indoors so that they will be ready to transplant by late March or early April.  That way, I can make a project plan for seed starting and other garden prep work.  Here is an excerpt of my flower worksheet for this year:

Plant Name

Order?

# Seeds

Days to Bloom

Sun

Projected Use

Plant Time

Start Seeds

Notes

Zinnia – White

N

12

60

Full

Front/front left

3/17/2013

3/17/2013

Plant outside in pot; transplant in April

Zinnia – Red

N

12

60

Full

Front/front left

3/17/2013

3/17/2013

Plant outside in pot; transplant in April

Zinnia – Light Pink

N

12

60

Full

Front/front left

3/17/2013

3/17/2013

Plant outside in pot; transplant in April

Zinnia – Dark Pink

N

12

60

Full

Front/front left

3/17/2013

3/17/2013

Plant outside in pot; transplant in April

Zinnia – Yellow

N

12

60

Full

Front/front left

3/17/2013

3/17/2013

Plant outside in pot; transplant in April

Vinca Pacifica Polka Dot

N

100

60

Full

Front/front left

3/23/2013

1/22/2013

Sow indoors.

Vinca Pacifica Red

N

100

60

Full

Front/front left

3/23/2013

1/22/2013

Sow indoors.

Vinca Pacifica White

N

100

60

Full

Side Bed

3/23/2013

1/22/2013

Sow indoors.

Vinca Tropicana Pink

N

150

60

Full

Side Bed

3/23/2013

1/22/2013

Sow indoors.

Vinca Punch

N

150

60

Full

Side Bed

3/23/2013

1/22/2013

Sow indoors.

Dahlias (BULBS)

N

20

Full

Side Bed

3/23/2013

3/23/2013

Dig up after plants fade.

Now I’m off to finish that seed inventory.  I plan to get my tomato seeds started in the next couple of weeks.  I’ll keep you posted!

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5 responses to “Take Stock and Carry On

  1. gayle dean says:

    Hi – good going for you. I am just thinking of what flowers I want in my backyard this year. 🙂 ` gjd.

  2. molliose says:

    Love your blog ….. keep it up — so organized and useful information for ALL of us! Thank you! Molly

  3. Cindy Hall says:

    Thanks for the update on squash. I too have no success with squash. Every year I say I will not buy any plants and I think how good a fresh squash would taste and buy them. So this year I will take your advice and plant earlier. I also didn’t know you can keep seeds for 2-3 years. I threw all mine out in attempt to fall clean.
    B.W. Capps says plant potatoes Feb. 14th. I know its cold still but I have did it in the past and will again this year. Also I’m planning my vegetable garden too. I have spring fever in January.

  4. Bill Kes says:

    January is a great time to take inventory and recondition your tools for the coming season; sharpen pruners, clippers, clean and sharpen shovels and other garden tools. With heavy shade I don’t try to grow vegetables, a few annuals but the camellias love it. I have tried vegetables; the deer said thank you and the squirrels dug up the rest, Our sunniest spot gets perhaps 5 hours of sun but by midsummer the shade is most welcome and there is no grass to mow; leaves from the trees remain on the ground and create a great mulch.

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