Food Gardening Resolutions
Let's resolve to record our food gardening experiences (both our gardening successes and our gardening failures) in order to learn from them. In addition, let's employ sustainable food gardening practices from which both we and the environment benefit: maintaining soil quality, reducing soil degradation and erosion, saving water and increasing biodiversity in terms of the variety of beneficial organisms and their environment. These environmentally-friendly practices will provide us healthier and more productive crops. Click here to learn more.
In the Garden
Q: True or False? There Is Nothing To Plant In The Winter.
There are perennial crops such as rhubarb and asparagus that can be planted this winter. And, depending on your microclimate, there are a few cool-weather crops such as peas, bulb onions and leafy greens that can be planted in mid- to late-winter for a spring harvest. See "Year-Round Food Gardening in Sonoma County." Purchase these seeds or bulbs early.
Bare root plants are available late-December through January. This is a cost-efficient way to start or add to your vineyard, asparagus bed, berry garden and orchard. You'll find a good selection in your local nurseries. Master Gardener Joe Michalek gives us the low down on how to select bare root trees as well as how to plant and care for them. Remember to never work wet soil...this destroys soil structure. Wait a few days after rain to plant. Crops don't like "wet feet" and seeds germinate in moist, not wet, soil. Make sure that soil is well-draining. And, if you're interested in growing more than one variety of fruit on your fruit tree, the Redwood Chapter of the California Rare Fruit Growers will hold their scion exchange on January 25, 2020.
Sustainable Food Gardening
We recently added to our sustainable food gardening series with a new article: "Right Plant, Right Place, Right Time." Check it out!
New Strawberry Varieties For California
Master Gardener Food Gardening Specialist and Rare Fruit Grower Penny Fink shares that UC Davis recently announced five new strawberry varieties. The Davis Strawberry Breeding Program stated, “After more than three years of field tests, we’re seeing higher yields, greater disease resistance and better quality after harvest.” Three of the varieties ('Moxie,' 'Royal Royce' and 'Valiant') perform well throughout the long, warm days of summer. Two varieties ('Victor' and 'Warrior') are bred for cooler climates along California’s coast. We hope to see these in some of the local nurseries/farm supply operations in the next year. Learn more.
Food Garden Specialists
Food Garden Specialists (FGS) are volunteers in the UC Master Gardener Program of Sonoma County. They have a passion for and extra training in sustainable food gardening. In addition to offering food gardening workshops, they provide free advice and consultation services to community gardens throughout Sonoma County. Read more.
Food Garden Tips
January Food Garden Tasks and Tips
For what to grow this month, click here.
- Plant bare-root fruit trees, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, rhubarb, and asparagus. Plant onion bulbs. Your nursery will have a great selection in early January. Our homepage lists articles on planting bare-root trees.
- It is too early to plant most cool weather crops. Instead, enjoy a rainy day looking through seed catalogs to select crop varieties with “days of maturity” (DTM) that suit your microclimate. As always, err on the conservative side and consider drought-tolerant varieties and those with short DTM. Check the date stamped on the package of any seeds left over from last year. Many seeds are good for at least three years if stored properly, but some, such as onion, parsley and parsnip, lose viability after one year. You can check your seeds for viability: see seed-viability test.
- Prepare a garden plan that includes what to plant, where to plant and when to start seed indoors and/or set out transplants. Plan to place crops with similar water needs near each other. New gardeners should keep it simple: start with transplants unless it is a crop that is recommended for direct seeding in the garden. The experienced gardener will want to make the most of garden space by planning for succession planting, companion planting and intercropping.
- When planning your spring garden, implement water-wise practices. See the “Food Gardening with Less Water” page and video prepared by the Food Gardening Specialists.
- Buy a calendar to record planting and, based on DTM, harvest dates. Make notes as to your successes/favorites and failures. If you kept a record last year, use it in your garden planning decisions.
- If you only have space for a small vegetable bed, modify your garden plan to include edibles in your ornamental beds.
- Spray fruit trees with copper and dormant oil after pruning and before buds start to open.
- Protect frost-tender plants on cold nights. If you use a tarp or sheet on evergreen plants, use stakes to make sure that covers do not touch the leaves. Remove plastic or heavy covers during the day; frost cloth may stay in place on cold days. If you use lights as a heat source, note that the new energy-saving LED light strings do not generate enough heat. Pull mulch away from the plant so that soil can absorb heat during sunny days. Potted plants can be moved under shelter. Finally, make sure that citrus is well-watered as the freezing temps will turn the water in the soil to ice, making some of it unavailable to the plants. Also, the temperature above moist soil is warmer than the temperature above dry soil.
- Click here for ongoing monthly tasks.