January 2006 Article

Well, that December 1st snow fall was a surprise. We have had an early cold winter thus far. I was expecting we would to stay above freezing most days but not this December. Now in January we are in the deepest part of winter, but what is our garden doing?

Even in the coldest, darkest time, our soil microorganisms are working for us. The freezing temperatures will only reach a few inches into the soil. Below that, some of the fungal matter and bacteria can continue to break down the organic matter and mineral content of the soil. This will make those nutrients available to the plants during the growing season. I remember last February when we had some very early warm weather. It could happen again. Those warm temperatures really wake up the soil microorganisms and get them to work early. However, last year it seemed to me that it just got those slugs starting early.

The day light is beginning to increase also. You may not notice the longer days till March, but many trees, bushes and other perennials will begin to swell their buds in preparation for spring. On my walks, I enjoy noticing the subtle changes in the plant life. I especially notice the daphne, forsythia, camellia, willow and, of course, the evergreen clematis as their buds swell. How dramatic the blooms and scent of that clematis. I will continue to plant them despite how much work they are to prune and prevent them from taking over the whole yard and house and garage.

The seed catalogs are beginning to arrive in the mail. I will probably order my onions and peas soon, and then make another order later for the other vegetable seeds. I expect to try several varieties of onions from seed this next year. I will start them in my greenhouse and on the window sills. Onion seed can be crowded to start with, then give them lots of room when you plant them out. I’ll put as many as 15 seeds in a four inch pot. Onions are from the lily family and are very easy to separate and transplant. They love a rich, well drained soil, lots of sun and no weed competition. I will always plant a bed of Walla Walla sweets for the early fresh, juicy taste, delicious in any recipe. Last year I was happy to find bunches of Walla Walla onion starts that were really inexpensive at our local nursery. Other years I haven’t been able to count on that, so I’ll rely on my own from seed.

My other favorite onions are a large red type like Redwing and a good storage onion like Copra. I’ll probably grow the Italian button onion, Cipollini, just because they are so pretty in a stew and they store well also. I should mention how delicious the scallions are when they are fresh and available for the early salads. So many to choose from. The Egyptian Walking onion (a scallion type) is fun to try because it travels around the garden and grows year around. I don’t know where to get seeds, but look for a plant start at a spring plant sale. The onion stalks develop little bulbing onions on their tips and then fall over. The little bulbs root, sprout up quickly and make delicious scallions. Always leave a couple stalks to bloom, bulb up and then fall onto another part of the garden. You end up with scallions here and there all year long.

Hang on through this last cold dark month, and then rejoice in the coming spring.
The green gardens will be appearing again soon.

Leave a Reply