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COLUMN: January perfect month to take stock, plan ahead for garden's next season

'Make lists on what to do. Our memory, especially when we are busy, is not reliable.'
Charles Schroder
Columnist Charles Schroder

A young homeowner went to a small local garden centre to get some garden tools. As he left, he said, “Goodbye.” The owner did not respond. “Why didn’t you respond?” he said. “You’ll be back,” said the owner. And he was, not once, but twice. The third time he went to another store.

We waste a lot of time because we don’t plan ahead as we perform our daily garden tasks. Have a plan and follow it. Make lists on what to do. Our memory, especially when we are busy, is not reliable.

Good soil makes gardening easier. Prepare your soil to a depth of up to 40 centimetres of fertile soil.

Gardening with raised beds is a major time saver. Thinning and weeding can be done at any time, wet or dry. Crop rotation is simple.

Make a paper plan of your garden and record what and where you grew, and in January write down where and what you plan to plant in the spring.

Use vertical structures such as trellises, poles, stucco wire, or rebar mats to increase your yield from small spaces. Cucumbers, pole beans, winter squash, tomatoes, and peas like to grow up. Place high rising plants such as peas where they will not shade sun-loving plants.

Have an assortment of tools, such as shovel, hoe, rake, fork, trowel, watering can, pruning shears, and garden clippers. Have a specific place to store each and put them back after use. Have a number of pails ready to carry soil, weeds, water. Purchase two rain barrels and a watering can.

Be ready to dress for success with knee pads, garden hat, and garden gloves.

In January, especially if you are a first-time gardener, develop a plan on what you want to plant. If you plan to grow vegetables, base it on what you like to eat. How much of each vegetable do you want to plant? Determine how much garden space you can allocate to each plant.

Once you have decided what to grow, determine where and when you plan to grow each plant. Some like it hot with lots of light. Others like it cool and a bit shady. Most annual flowers must be set out after the last frost. Make a list of what seeds to buy.

As spring approaches, plan on when to plant each vegetable or flower. Take note of each plant's individual requirements. Some vegetables, such as lettuce or spinach, can be planted in late April. Carrots, onions, cabbage, or peas can be planted in early May. Potatoes, tomatoes, and beans can be planted in late May.

Keep a log of your gardening activities. Record each seed variety, when you planted it, how long it took to germinate, when you first started to harvest, and how you stored the excess. This will help to decide what to do next season.

Charles Schroder is a St. Albert resident and an avid gardener.