Plans for the New Year in the Garden

I have all the usual New Year’s Resolutions many people have, which I will not share here in case I do not achieve them, but I will share my plans for the garden.  Gardening resolutions have to take the form of plans, not resolutions, because there are so many factors beyond the gardener’s control that may prevent their accomplishment, factors besides, “Well, that cake looked so tasty I just had to eat it.”   Planning the garden in the winter is a wonderful occupation, because the hot days and hard work are a long way off.  My plans are usually too ambitious, but I enjoy planning most when it includes some dreams.

This year, I have a large area that pine trees covered until we had them cut in September.  I sowed it to rye grass and clover, and I will move the chickens onto the grass, let them eat the cover crop and fertilize the area.  The trees grew in clay, and the soil will need some work before it is ready for my orchard.  I plan to till in the cover crops the chickens leave behind to give the soil organic matter.  I do not know when I will get the apple, pear, cherry, and peach trees planted, but I will work towards the eventual orchard this year.  An orchard is an investment in time and money, and I want to make sure the soil is ready, and I want to make sure I choose the best varieties of trees for my area.

I have read about grafting non-disease resistant heirloom tomatoes onto disease-resistant rootstock.  For example, I could graft San Marzano tomatoes, which I want to grow to make sauce out of, but which die quickly in the garden, onto the lower stem and roots of the Celebrity tomato, which resists disease, and get the disease resistance of the Celebrity and the fruit of the San Marzano.  I saw grafted plants for sale in a gardening magazine for $7 each, and they will become expensive if I buy many.  I will spend the winter reading about grafting tomatoes, and will experiment with them.  I did achieve one of my perennial gardening goals last summer: I grew enough tomatoes to can to last me through the winter.  Every year is different, though, so I am always looking for ways to outsmart pests and disease. 

I want to grow enough Irish potatoes, onions, garlic, and sweet potatoes so I do not have to buy any.  The onions and garlic are in the ground now, and I will have to plant the Irish potatoes later this winter, and the sweet potatoes in the spring.  I have grown more than enough garlic for us for several years, and I will keep trying to accomplish the other goals.

What are your gardening plans?  If you have never gardened, it is a great time to begin one.  Do all the heavy digging and soil preparation now, when it is cold, and when warm weather comes you can leisurely plant your garden.  And, working in the garden will complement your resolutions to lose weight and exercise more, while you’re having more fun than you would on a treadmill at the gym.  Next time I’ll write about my favorite seed catalogs and plant resources, and you can order some catalogs or look at some websites and plan your garden this winter. 

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