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Education

The Garden in January

By A Year in the Garden, Education

Looking out my window in early January, I am reminded of past seasons when the desire to put my hands deep into the frozen soil is overwhelming. Even though my ability to do that cherished occurrence is still months away, I continue to realistically welcome each moment of increasing daylight and intensity of the warming sun. Daily perusals of my landscape provide me with affirmations of resilience as I notice the bare whispers of buds on the contorted outlines of succulents whose origins are in South Africa, and are now thriving in Denver.

And I return to the power of dreams as I focus on January.

D | Focus on diversity 

The healthiest and most productive gardens mimic healthy communities by bringing together diverse vegetables, herbs and flowers that contribute to the overall strength of growth. Investigate diverse planting styles (permaculture, companion planting (i.e. the ‘Three Sisters’ growing of corn, beans and squash together) that celebrate the wisdom of the ages.

R | Review your garden plans 

Remember to rotate garden crops to a different area in your plot (especially important for tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and eggplant. If you haven’t already developed a garden plot plan and incorporate designated ‘walkways’ between rows to dimmish areas of soil compaction around plant roots. Feet do belong in gardens. They just need a place to dance!

E | Encourage participation of others

Be realistic regarding what you like to eat, your life commitments outside of the garden, your abilities to maintain a garden space throughout the season. Utilize the immense fountain of knowledge in a community garden. Develop friendships and lists of people you can turn to for advice.

A | Activate your garden dreams

Join DUG’s online network to access the creative power of our gardening community. Our virtual commons connects novices and more seasoned gardeners, upcoming events and courses that can further your earth journey.

M | Maintain a base of optimism, based in reality 

The ground is frozen, but roots of perennials and trees are actively growing, opening up air channels for diverse soil – dwelling macro and microorganisms to proliferate. Denver’s last frost is typically around May 8th – 15th but early spring crops such as salad greens, radish, green onions, carrots, and beets can often be planted in early April. Note: Water in community gardens is usually not turned on until May.

Remember that the best gardeners grow slowly, like a rich compost. Take a walk outside and begin turning over leaves to experience the miracle of emerging crocus, snowdrops and other spring bulbs by the end of the month.

Sourcing Seeds

By Education

By Judy Elliot, Senior Education Specialist

As daylight hours lengthen and thoughts turn to the upcoming growing season, it’s a good idea to be practical about gardening expectations; with the myriad of seed catalogs available, either as online resources or ‘dream books’, it’s easy to get overwhelmed or overzealous in picking out your next season’s seeds.

Whenever possible, DUG recommends locally purchasing seeds and/or transplants or ‘growing your own’. However, this year, like last, many seed companies are experiencing delays processing seed orders due to increased demand.

A reliable seed supplier (free catalog & online) is: Johnny’s Selected Seeds. Metro Denver nurseries such as Tagawas, Echters, and Southwest Gardens also have a good supply of seeds for the ‘2021’ growing season. Transplants and ‘tubers’ for cool season crops, such as onions, potatoes, asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and kale are typically available beginning in early – mid March. You can also apply for seeds and seedlings through DUG’s Grow a Garden program before January 31st.

Pro Tip: Check your current seed packets each year to see if seeds stored from prior years are viable (i.e.will they germinate & begin to grow).

To do this:

  1. Tear off several sheets of paper towels, stacking 2 together
  2. Moisten well with a misting or spray bottle
  3. Across the top of the paper towel, evenly space 10 seeds of the specific variety you are testing
  4. Carefully roll up the paper towel & seeds, place in a plastic sack and leave in a cool, dry place
  5. Each day, open the sack, unroll the towels & carefully blow on the seeds to surround them with carbon dioxide (which promotes germination)
  6. Repeat above process each day

Note the first day you see the seed coat split & baby root emerge. At the end of 10 days, if 7 or more seeds germinate, you are safe to utilize the seed source for growing. (70% or greater germination rate is preferred).

Of note, onions, leeks, green onions and lettuce are some of the seeds that are best purchased ‘fresh’ each year.

The Garden in December

By A Year in the Garden, Education

After our long, extended fall, replete with record high temperatures, it seems that some more ‘seasonal’ weather may be settling in. With a light covering of snow on the ground, and temperatures hovering in the tens or twenties at night, it’s hard to turn our thoughts to the garden.

Ah, but this is the season of magic, of tree and perennial flower roots spreading underground, quietly storing sugars and starches to prepare for active growth in the spring. This also is the season for us to focus on our ROOTS.

R: Remember the past growing season by:

  • Making a simple garden map showing what you planted, its location in the garden and any companions it had (flowers, herbs)
  • Be mindful of garden challenges: (heat, insects, diseases, drought)
  • Was the garden utilized spring through fall?

O: Organize and clean any garden tools, sharpening edges of pruners, shovels and garden hoes, removing rust and oiling wooden handles

O: Order fresh seeds if needed. Typically, if stored in a cool, dry location, most veggie seeds, (other than lettuce, green onions, bulbing onions & leeks that lose viability after several years) can be successfully planted for the upcoming season. Order seed catalogs in December to expand your field of dreams. Some favorite selections include:

T: Treasure the gifts that each season brings. Continue to:

  • Care for the soil by piling more leaves or straw on top of growing areas, to promote increased organic matter as they decompose over the winter season
  • Water fall planted garlic once monthly if not adequately covered by snow
  • Deep water those treasured trees and perennial plants

S: Share your increasing garden knowledge, extra preserved garden harvest goodies with neighbors, friends and others in your community. Most of all, know that as we continue to nurture our growing areas, we are also nurtured in a sense of purpose and place.

Connect with other gardeners and plan your springtime garden in DUG’s online community!