Most of your gardening time in January should be spent dreaming.
In the Puget Sound area, we’ll still have a few more hard frosts, and maybe even some snow, before plants begin to break dormancy. Sure, there are a still garden tasks that need tending to in January, but overall, this is a time to plan your garden for the coming year.
If you have fruit trees, spray them with Dormant Oil in January, before new buds break. The lightweight oil will smother overwintering insects. If you want an organic oil (or, more properly, an oil approved for organic gardening), look for one made from cottonseed oil or soybean oil, rather than refined petroleum. The more highly refined the oil is, the better. Some can even be used, at highly reduced rates, to control insect larvae during the growing season.
January is also a good time to topdress your beds with an additional layer of bark or compost. New mulch will protect your plants’ roots from freezing or frost damage, feed and enrich the soil, and keep your garden looking neat.
Once your winterizing is taken care of, sit down with your favorite seed and plant catalogues and start to dream.
VEGETABLES and HERBS
Since 1979, Territorial Seed Co. has been supplying Northwest gardeners with high quality seeds chosen specifically for our climate. The huge selection of tomatoes, for instance, is not only extra tasty, but also chosen for their shorter than average ripening period. As Territorial Seed Co. has grown, so has their selection of seed potatoes, garlic starts, and live plants. The Territorial Seed catalogue is the foundation of a successful vegetable garden in the Northwest.
If you love gourmet cooking, there is no better seed catalogue than Renee’s Garden Seeds. Renee Shepherd is often credited with bringing international gourmet varieties to the home gardener. This company’s incredible selection of herbs, vegetables, and heirloom flowers is a treat not to be missed.
Both Territorial Seed Co and Renee’s Garden Seeds subscribe to the Safe Seeds Pledge. Rigorous testing at Renee’s Garden Seeds trial grounds in Felton, CA and Territorial Seed Co.’s trial grounds in Cottage Grove, OR ensures that you’ll be buying seeds with high germination rates.
Hard-core vegetable gardeners look forward to spending winter nights reading the Johnny’s Selected Seeds catalogue. As much a gardening handbook as a seed catalogue, Johnny’s features advice on everything from heirloom seeds to hardiness zones and season extenders. Like Territorial Seed Co. and Renee’s Garden Seeds, Johnny’s Selected Seeds maintains extensive trial grounds where they grow and test the seeds they sell. Johnny’s Selected Seeds is located in Maine, and although the climate and growing season is different than the Puget Sound’s, many of the short season varieties Johnny’s offers do very well in Seattle gardens.
SEED STARTING SUPPLIES
Most nurseries and garden stores carry a selection of starter trays, flats, seed starter mixes, peat pots and pellets, and inoculants.
Environmentally concerned gardeners turn to biodegradable growing supplies, instead of plastic pots, whenever possible. They also reuse plastic inserts and flats from season to season. Great idea! However, be aware that soil borne pathogens can live for a very long time in used pots – so wash them thoroughly in warm water and a mild bleach solution.
Peat pots and pellets are a well known sight in any garden store. What is less well known is the impact of peat harvesting on the environment. Peat bogs are an important wetland resource. Most bogs are not in danger of depletion, but the use of highly acidic peat in already acidic Northwest soils is not the ideal seed starter. If you want to conserve peat bogs and lime, there are plenty of natural and biodegradable alternatives.
Cow Pots are safe, clean, and biodegradable. They are made from thoroughly composted cow manure. As you might expect, there is no danger that we’ll run out of manure any time soon… so Cow Pots make an excellent – and environmentally sound – replacement for peat pots. You can buy them online if they are not available from your local nursery.
Seedlings are highly suscepible to a disease known as “Damp Off.” The warm,moist environment essential for seed germination is also the perfect breeding ground for fungus diseases like Damp Off.
This is why there is no substitite for a sterile seed starting mix.
Seeds germinate best in lightweight soil that holds water and nutrients. Don’t let all the time and effort you put into your seeds be lost to save a few pennies on seed starting mix. Read the ingredients and buy the best seed starter you can find. Your favorite seed catalogues will either sell a commercial mix or offer a recipe for making your own.