January is often cold and then sometime in the end of January or early February we have our first warm spell. That warm spell is what I call the beginning of the new season. That means we are still in the in between time for the garden where the main things you should be doing are planning, pruning and cleaning up the garden and your tools.
Planning – there are several steps to my January planning. First I go through my old seeds and throw out ones that are more then a few years old (seeds vary on how long they can last, some last for years, others just a year or two depends on the plant – check out http://www.seedmatters.org/engage-grow/start-a-community-seed-project/ for the seed saving chart that also gives seed life for different plants). I then think about what worked and what didn’t, what I want to change, etc. I write all of that down and then sketch out what plants and the quantities I want to grow and when they might go in the garden. I make a map and then a calendar. I use these two tools to make a basic plan for the year. What will go in where and when also when it might come out of the garden for replanting. From this I can figure out what seeds and plants I might need to buy. I love seed catalogs so I spend a lot of time with my seed catalogs thinking of new varieties I might want to get. But I don’t look at seed catalogs until I know what I already have and what I want to plant, that way I won’t buy too many seeds.
Pruning – when it’s nice out, pruning is what you should be doing in the garden whether it is roses, fruit trees, berries or perennials. There are so many great workshops out there right now for pruning classes. Check out the iGROW calendar for classes.
Cleaning – the garden really needs a winter cleaning not a spring cleaning. This is the time to deal with neglected corners where you tossed some old pots and didn’t pick up your weed piles. I like to woodchip paths and neaten the edges. It is also a great time to clean and care for your tools. Your pruning shears and loppers should get a good oil and sharpen (check out youtube for some good videos on how to sharpen). You can also give your shovels and hoes a file to sharpen their edges. I like to take some sandpaper to the handles if they have gotten rough anywhere. After cleaning and sharpening the tools, give everything a good oil to prevent rust. Some people swear by a bucket with coarse sand and some motor oil or mineral oil poured into it. You can put your shovels and forks into it a few times after every clean up and it gives them a quick oil. (I have done this and it works great but I never know what to do with the sand when I need to dump it out, seems pretty bad to dump just anywhere).
Some events and things you might want to check out:
California Rare Fruit Growers Scion Exchange – January 26th from 10 to 2 at the Santa Rosa Veteran’s Building – if you ever wanted to step up your fruit tree knowledge this is the place to go, lots of workshops on pruning and grafting.
Community Garden Network of Sonoma County presents “Planting Community Seeds” an afternoon of exchanging ideas for community gardeners and organizers. Feb. 2nd 1 to 4 at Spring Hills Church, 3700 Fulton Rd. Santa Rosa. Go to www.communitygardensonoma.org for more info.
West County Community Seed Exchange – monthly gathering January 26th from 9 to 12. Focus of this gathering is processing seed- a hands on primer. Come help process the seed grown in the seed garden. The Seed Library is open to check out seed from 9 to 11, over 200 varieties of locally grown varieties are available.