Sunday, January 2, 2011

Please, I need to work in the garden!!!

It is only the first week of January and I am about to go stark raving mad! I want/NEED to work out in my garden. The weather the past couple of days has actually been in the 70's (it won't last) and I am getting bombarded with seed and plant catalogs. How much more can I take?!
I did order some really nice tomato seeds, that helped a little bit. I even did get outside a couple of times and started to clean up a little. I didn't do anything major, just a few pots that needed to be emptied, some limbs that had fallen, stuff like that. I still want to really get down and dirty!
Then....I got our monthly Master Gardener newsletter. There is some sign of relief.
What I am about to tell you is mainly for South Carolina or probably at least Zone 8 and higher, but it could relate to some others of you.
January is a time to start planting! Things like Beets, Carrots, Spinach, and the like.
According to Clemson Extension, I can and should have been planting Lettuce since December 20th. In my neck of the woods, this can go on all the way to February 5th. The optimum soil temperature for seed germination is 60 to 80 degrees. I am assuming they mean in a raised bed. I think my soil temperature right now is right around 58, but I am not sure how accurate my soil thermometer is.
Plant leaf lettuce in rows 1 to 2 feet apart with seed about one quarter inch deep and 6 to 10 inches apart in the row. It is impossible to space seed this small exactly at this spacing, you will have to thin the seedlings. Lettuce should be thinned when the plants are about 1 to 2 inches tall. Lettuce can also be planted in 12-inch-wide beds with the seed broadcast over the bed. On extremely cold nights it may be necessary to cover the plantings with a supported sheet or plastic covering, though it can handle light frosts. Lettuce should be ready to harvest about 75 days after planting.
Spinach can be planted all the way until February 25th. Plant spinach seed in rows 1 to 3 feet apart, spacing seed 2 inches apart in the row. Plant seed 1/2 inch deep and firm the soil over the seed to help ensure germination. Seed can also be broadcast on the 12 inch wide bed system. Make sure you are using fresh seed, older spinach seed does not germinate well. Again, you may need to cover on very cold nights. Spinach should be ready to harvest in about 37 to 45 days after planting.
Carrots are another one that I should have been planting last month. The dates for it are December 15th through January 30th for a Spring crop. Plant carrots in rows 12 to 18 inches apart with a quarter inch between the seeds. Being that carrot seeds are very tiny, try mixing the seed with dry sand to get even distribution. Ideally you will want to just pat the seeds down to make sure they have contact with the soil. You can cover, but you don't want it to be more than 1/8 of an inch down or the seeds will not be able to push themselves through to the sunlight. Thin the carrots to 2 inches between plants when they are 1 to 2 inches tall. Harvest carrots about 65 to 75 days after planting.
What would a garden be without beets? December 15th through June 30th is the recommended planting dates here. Plant beets in rows 10 to 30 inches apart and place the seed 1/2 inch deep with about 2 inches between the seeds. When the seedlings are 1 to 2 inches tall, thin them to 2 to 3 inches between plants. Harvest beets about 50 to 70 days after planting.
Radishes, Turnips, Rutabagas, Mustard, and Collards are some more things that can be planted now.
They all need as much sun as you can give them now. Remember, what is full sun in the Summer may not be full sun in the Winter.....plan accordingly.
Keep your seeds moist, but not soaking wet. They need some warmth and moisture to germinate. If you let them dry out, they are goners.
There are few things that are nice about having this kind of garden growing now.
1) There are not near as many insect problems, it's too cold for them. Yes, you may and will probably have some, but it won't be near as bad as say in July.
2) Weeds, there are fewer weeds growing this time of year. Again, you will get some, but they are much less a nuisance.
3) Disease pathogens are minimal. They will begin to multiply as the weather warms however.
4) Just having fresh veggies and digging in the dirt is a bonus for me.
This is also a good time of year to be planting and transplanting Roses, Trees and other Shrubs. The plants are basically dormant so there is no transplant shock or at least it is a lesser problem. They will have a chance to grow more roots because the ground is still "warm" compared to the air. All of the energy can go into the roots before it has to expel it for leaf growth. Besides, if you are looking for a great deal on trees, shrubs, and such, now is the time to be looking before the Spring rush hits.
Speaking of shrubs and trees you can and should also be spraying with a dormant oil right now if you have had insect problems in the past. What is dormant oil you ask? Most commercial dormant oil sprays are refined from petroleum oil. A few are made from cottonseed oil. These are highly refined oils (not motor oils!) which spread uniformly on the bark of trees and shrubs to which it is applied and coat non-mobile, dormant insects on the tree smothering them to death. It is best to spray before buds begin to swell. If buds of trees and shrubs have begun to swell slightly, go ahead and spray. Although some of the buds may be damaged, the benefits of spraying dormant oil far outweigh the possible infestation you may get. Spraying of dormant oil should occur on a clear day when the temperatures are expected to remain over 50 degrees for at least twenty-four hours. The ideal temperatures for application is between 40 and 70 degrees. Try to avoid using the dormant oil if a sever freeze is expected in 3-4 days. A word of caution however, if you have flowers growing under or around the tree or shrub you are spraying, cover them prior to application, it can and will kill them. Make sure you follow all label directions, this is the law!
One last thing you should think about. If you have never had your soil tested or it has been sometime since you last tested it, contact your local extension office and find out how, you will be glad you did.
Well, I hope this has given you something to smile about. The days are getting longer and Spring will eventually come. If you are as eager to get out and do SOMETHING in the yard, here are some possibilities. Now please forgive me, I have some lettuce to go plant!
Happy Growing!


  1. Ouch, Darren. "January is a time to start planting"....way to rub in your Zone 8 advantage! The only reason my Zone5 soil isn't rock-hard frozen right now is that we haven't had moisture since September and the top two inches is just powdered dust. I think I'll wait a couple of months for planting :)

  2. Those 22 degree nights on James Island have not been real good for planting much. I'm to busy cutting dead stuff out of the veggie garden right now!

  3. Yah, Darren - we can't even get the gate open for the heaving pavers... Dec. here in my SW Ohio area was 10 degrees below normal for the whole month. I can't even begin to think about gardening or I'll bust!!!