January is the month where I spend the most time in my garden, pruning, tidying, and planting. I’m outside working for several hours almost every day.
I have some goals I’d like to achieve in the garden this year, and a lot of those will come from good planning and preparation done this month. This year, I want the garden to be both more productive and more beautiful. Here’s how I plan to make that happen:
Snow Pea Seedlings; these are the 30 day “Little Snowpea White” that I also grew last year; I love the short time to harvest!
1. Bring in new dirt to the garden. This will refresh the area and also fill in where the garden soil has settled over the years.
2. Fertilize more often. Fruit trees should be fertilized here 3 times a year (February, May, and September), and roses every few weeks. I generally only fertilize my fruit trees once a year (I never get around to the other two times) and roses once in a while.
3. Plant more often. I want to make sure to do lots of succession planting (where I plant again every few weeks), especially with lettuce.
4. Plant earlier. I want to plant more before the heat sets in. Our last frost date is February 15th, which means warm-season crops can go in the ground then.
5. Add new plants. Last year I added 2 more pomegranate trees (in pots), a mandarin tree (in a pot), male and female pistachio trees, and 2 new blackberry bushes. This year I want to add at least 5 more blackberry bushes (and if I can figure out a way to add more trees, I’ll do that too!).
6. Make the shady areas more productive by planting more of what works well in the shade in these areas. This includes Swiss chard, New Zealand spinach, parsley, and Vesca (Alpine) strawberries.
7. Plant more squash.
8. Spray more often. I lost part of my grape crop last year to powdery mildew (and almost lost all of it). I will spray neem oil a couple of times before the leaves come out in March/April, and again in April or May if needed.
9. Bag grapes in paper lunch bags (stapled on) to keep the birds from eating the grapes.
10. Plant more snow peas, Armenian cucumbers, and red noodle beans. To do this, I am unrolling some homemade tomato cages (made from 6-inch concrete mesh) and using stakes that I already have to use the flat mesh as a trellis (pictured above).
11. Plant more chives and green onions from seed.
12. Plant more artichokes.
Four of the new rose bushes surrounded by flowering cabbage
Last year I added 14 new rose bushes to the garden in back. Five of these did not make it; the company will be sending me replacements in February. The plants are small to start, but the ones that I planted last year should start flowering this year.
I planted a few hundred flower bulbs over the last few weeks, and I’ve still got more to plant. I’ll be planting those this year.
1. Plant 250 daffodil bulbs in the garden (hopefully all this week if I can).
2. Plant small hedges along the walkway in the white garden.
3. Dig 6 large bushes from the white garden (from the planting areas along the walkway, seen in the photo below) and transplant them into pots on the back patio. I have been growing these for 3 years and pruning them to become spheres. By the end of this year, there is a good chance they will have reached the size and shape I’ve been planning.
4. Plant another hedge in the garden in back. I’m going slow on this and using cuttings from existing bushes to grow the hedge. It will take many more years to grow it this way, but it doesn’t cost me any money to do it like this.
5. Plant nasturtium seeds in all of the potted fruit trees on the patio. The seeds are ones we collected from the garden last year.
6. Plant rows of flower seeds in between the vegetables.
7. Resod and reseed grass in areas where we lost grass last year (we had some larger areas die due to broken sprinkler issues, as well as some of the normal loss due to grubs, for which we always reseed in spring).
8. Purchase a new edger and learn how to use it. I’d like to have sharp edges on the grass around the beds this year.
9. Prune hedges 4 times a year to keep them looking good.
The start of changes to the front walkway: I just planted daffodils in this bed last week as well as these pansies. The large bushes will be transplanted into pots in the backyard and will hopefully finish growing into the sphere shapes I have always planned for them to be (but now they’ll do so in the backyard). I’ll surround each of these 4 planters by the walkway with smaller box leaf euonymus hedges; I’ve put in 2 small ones already at the top of this planter (near the other large bush in the planter) and I am waiting for the nursery to have more for sale over the next few months. The bed is soaked from a wonderful rain we had a few days ago; this bed is in full shade all day and will be for the next couple of months.
The local nursery will be having many sales over the next four months, and they’ll have coupons too, so I will look for sales on the blackberries and box leaf euonymus as well as coupons to make those sales even better deals.
We’re enjoying temperatures in the 50’s and 60’s this week; a frost is possible this month and we’ll likely get at least one night of it sometime later this month, but for the most part, it’s spring-like weather with lots to do!
Have you considered having your hedges do double-duty being composed of plants that provide edible fruit like natal plums or barberries?
How do you reconcile the need to tighten your budget with the desire to plant decorative plants in your garden? In your recent post Frugal Accomplishments for the last Week of 2016 post, you said, “I went to the nursery and bought some new plants for the garden on sale–some annuals that will last for 5 months and a few bushes on sale. I still need several more bushes for this area, but they did not have enough in stock. I’ll watch for when they have more and purchase them on sale. In the next few months, the nursery usually mails out several $10 off coupons, so I’ll combine those with sales to purchase the remaining bushes as they become available.” You have also posted recently about tightening the household budget and spending $0 on groceries for the month of January. I completely understand the budgetary value of growing your own food–my family does this, too, and it really helps our bottom line–but how do you decide when you can spend money on the garden for non-food purposes?
Good luck with your garden! Ours did TERRIBLE this past summer. We only got tomatoes, green onions, and some lettuce. We have wild black raspberries on our property that did very well. The apples from my apple tree got these bruise/black spots on them and our pears did not get big enough to eat. Rabbits ate our few strawberries that grew, despite the fencing around them. Lots of seeds did not grow, despite several plantings.
I plan on fertilizing well before we plant. We did not get to do any of the “putting the garden to sleep” activities in fall due to our hectic work schedules. Hopefully we can make up for it in spring. I have already gone through my seeds and made a list of what I need to buy and what I want to plant.
These are great goals! We want to start a garden in the spring, so we really need to get in gear to prep for it. We want to do three raised beds to grow beans/peas, tomatoes, potatoes, squash, and herbs. I’m hoping that, after the startup costs, we’ll be able to save more money on our grocery bill. I’d also love to have a fig tree, but that won’t be productive until a few years after planting.
I was wondering if you eat the leaves for the snow peas? I find that sauteed with some oil and salt makes for a great vegetable side.
I looked up both of these bushes. Neither is available locally. It looks like both have thorns. Barberries appear to get quite tall. In the front yard, the hedges will only be 6 inches tall. I need something I can keep small. Natal plums need shade though do like zones 9-11. While the hedges in front are in shade all winter, they are in full sun the rest of the year. The hedge in back will be in fun sun all day.
I would love to do edible hedges if it was possible!
I tried growing a low cranberry bush before; it has been planted for YEARS (I planted 4); 1 made it and it is tiny (no bigger than it started, which was only a couple of inches high) and has never fruited. They like acid soil and we have very alkaline soil and water (8.2 ph); I have tried increasing acidity but it is hard to do. I ordered them online and they were quite expensive ($6.95 each).
By contrast, the box leaf euonymus comes in a 1-gallon pot and goes on sale for $1.98 each, plus I should see some $10 off coupons from the nursery.
As I stated in the January shopping/no shopping post, there are many reasons to do a no shopping month. I’ve had many Januarys of no-shopping in the past for budgetary reasons, but this time around, I’m not doing it because of a tighter budget. We have more than enough food in the pantry, fridges and freezers to last for many months if needed. With an irregular income, it is especially important that I can go for several months without shopping should the financial need arise again as it has in the past. Right now I want to make sure we use what I’ve stored and canned; that we eat the canned peaches, jams, and frozen fruits before new ones come and rotate through what we have in order to not be wasteful. Not going to the store will also give me more time in the garden 🙂
If we were doing a no grocery shopping month because of a tighter budget, I would not be buying the hedges.
When I originally planned the garden in back, I planned for lots of rose bushes. Last year our income increased and I was able to make those a reality (10 years after moving in).
With an irregular income, I never know what we will make for the year. I will only buy items as I have the money to do so.
Of course, that means that unless I have several months of money in the bank, ANY purchases past paying the bills (including food) can make for a tighter month the next month. I have to watch carefully which purchases I choose to make. I generally try to make sure I have money set aside for the next month’s bills before I decide to make any purchases (not counting any savings), so most of the time, I make purchases towards the end of the month.
The hedges will probably only be available a few at a time, so I’ll get them as I am able to over the next 4 months. I’d much rather buy them on sale ($1.98 each instead of $2.98 regular price) and use a coupon on top of that, so I’ll be watching for them to get more and then for sales. It may take a while before they get them all in.
I’ve been asked before if we will continue to live frugally with an increased income. The answer is yes, of course. We will also seek to do things that we have wanted and needed to do (last year, for instance, we made many repairs and replaced some broken things, as well as bought some non-essentials). As we buy the non-essentials (like hedges) we will make sure we do so for as low of a cost as possible, which makes our money go further and lets us do more 🙂
I love your photography. The natal plums were used as hedges in the Del Mar to Encinitas area of San Diego county a lot in areas with little to no shade although we did have a lot of fog roll in from the ocean until summer really going. I never noticed their thorns but I never fell into them either. Mature hedges ranged from maybe four feet to eight feet tall. They made a good sight barrier. Barberry’s thorns are skinny and soft when their growth is new-skinny and pokey when mature. They can be kept quite short. Not six inches, but definitely less than two feet. I had lots of experience brushing against them at various speeds as a kid. You learn to be careful around them quickly. I don’t know if they need a temperate climate or not.
I have tried several times to grow green onions from seeds and have never had any luck. How do you do it?
I really admire how much you can get in your garden considering how hot it is in your area. Last year it got hot here so very early many things did not last long. Our garden gets direct sun. It get very hot there. Last year we had high 90’s in Feb.
I am in the early stages of planting. Got some onions growing, garlic, and planted spinach. We also planted some radishes. I have tomato plants in paper pots waiting to be planted. The weather here is no funny that it almost crazy. Example, on Mon and Tue it was near 90 and today the high will only be 50. How do you know what to do? Makes a girl (me) nuts trying to figure it out.
We got compost put into the garden last weekend, put leaves into the compost pile, and put down cardboard paths between our garden beds. We will cover the cardboard with wood chips. (free from the city if we use our truck)
Brandy, thanks for all your encouragement and examples. I have a question? How large is your lot? You seem to always be able to squeeze a little bit more in. We started planting like you do after beginning to read your blog years ago. We were blessed to move to a larger lot last year and we are trying to expand as we have money and the energy to do the work. We are quite older than you. By the way, our last house sold in a day. Many people were interested in a city lot that was like a micro farm including chickens!
Thanks for this post. I’ve been hoping you would post updated pictures of your front ‘white’ garden. Gardening is one of my passions and I love growing my own food. Mostly driven from hating to pay for organic at the grocery store – and not being able to afford organic. I’m part of a community garden a few blocks away but I’ve been experimenting with growing things at my apartment as well.
‘My’ outdoor space at my apartment has, at best, dappled sun. I’ve had good luck growing rhubarb, horseradish, Jerusalem Artichokes (aka sunchokes) and huckleberries. I tried blueberries but they did not do as well as the huckleberries. I’m not sure,though, if the berries would do ok in your soil type. I’m also experimenting with growing asparagus. The latter takes 3 years or so to get a crop, so I’m practicing patience. Most, except for the rhubarb, would be happier in full sun but that’s not what I’m working with. I’m growing everything in either 5-gallon buckets or huge plastic tubs that are sold to hold toys. And the odd freebie container that I gleaned from the dumpster.
I’m also looking for some free rain gutter. I want to hang a section just below the top of my fence and see if I can grow some lettuce and radish. Radishes do really well for me in my community garden. If they grow well here at my apartment, it will free up some space in the community garden.
A few neighbors got together at the end of last summer to construct a raised bed garden. Each of us has a 4ft square ‘bed’. It’s in an area that receives full sun. I’m planning to grow 1 or 2 cherry tomatoes (I’ve given up on full size ones in my area) as well as some hot peppers. I’ll plant lettuce in between. It’s not a big space but it’s all about working with what is available. This project has also been a nice way to meet a few new people.
Your garden plans are so ambitious! I hope every bit of it grows well for you. I feel like a slug in comparison, but I work over 40 hours a week outside the home and I’m a good bit older, so the slowing down had to happen sometime, I guess. But I plan to keep growing some of our food every year. We started blackberries last year and hope for good results there. We lost our entire grape crop to raccoons and opossums – again.
Brandy, have you looked at what ornamentals could be air-layered? If there are any plants that grow in your area that can be layered easily, you would only have to buy one or maybe two and could start propagating your own at next to no cost. Your extension agent can help you there. My husband air-layered oak leaf hydrangeas and fig trees are fabulous for air layering He also grew loquat trees from seeds and got some nice strong young trees. He sells or gives his away, but he’s had pretty good luck in getting it to work. His mother was well-known for getting a cutting (or just snapping off a piece) and getting it to grow somehow into a mature plant — she had a green thumb I lack. We have taken cuttings from an heirloom rose that was his grandmother’s and made multiple plants off of it, but of course, that doesn’t work on grafted plants.
Good luck on your plans!
It’s a .24 acre lot. I have a one story house, plus the driveway and the patio where of course I am not growing anything (though I have been adding pots to the patio to make it somewhat productive). Thankfully most of the yard is straight in back. I love our lot shape.
I know if I took out the grass I could grow even more, but the children use it to run and play every day.
I [i]am[/i] always trying to squeeze a bit more in. I think it’s definitely possible. Now that the trees are larger I have more shade under them, which is a challenge but still doable. I want to make the most of that space.
That’s great about your house!
I love those rain gutter gardens! They are so interesting! And a great idea for apartments, too! I’ve seen strawberries in them too.
I never had any luck from seeds, so I finally bought starts from the nursery. Then those went to seed and reseeded themselves! Since then, I’ve collected seeds from them and have planted them just barely under the soil. I think the key is keeping them wet until they germinate; if they dry out you have to start all over. It can take 6-21 days for germination, depending on temperatures.
I know they are edible but I have never figured out how to eat the leaves when I am waiting for peas without ruining the pea crop.
Brandy, are the little snow pea white a shelling pea or a pea pod? I looked them up but even at the Territorial Seed Company site I could not figure it out from the description. Thanks for any help.
They’re snow peas (edible pods with peas inside). They have a purple one too, but it’s almost twice as long to maturity: http://www.territorialseed.com/category/snow_peas_seed
Readers who live in cold climates may be interested in growling honeyberry bushes. Edible blue berries that taste much like blueberries, smaller size bushes, very prolific, produce earlier in the season than strawberries or raspberries…and the bushes will thrive even if winter temperatures hit 30 or 40 below zero. I have grown them for years, never had to spray to prevent diseases or predators. Also are said to be high in Vitamin c. You have to raise at least two for cross-pollination, but that is pretty much it. Not sure hw they would do in hot climates but they have been a welcome edible addition to cold climates. Grown a lot in Siberia, too.
Brandy, I watched this show this afternoon on our local PBS channel and thought you might enjoy it. This episode is about growing an edible garden. I don’t know if you know of Graham Kerr but I used to watch his show when I was a teenager. His recipes are wonderful and he is quite entertaining!
You have such a green thumb and endless knowledge!
I’d like to have a raised bed here but i don’t think my husband will go for it. Our yard is very small. The front door is nine feet from the sidewalk. Behind our house is the neighbors garage. Our ‘yard’ is to the side. We have several dwarf fruit trees, a shed and a medium flower/herb garden. I’d like to plant a dwarf peach. I pulled the cherry that didn’t do well enough to suit me. (My husband is onboard for the peach tree.) I do have a very small garden area that butts up against the shed. It gets a lot of sun and the shed cuts the North wind. I planted potatoes and shallots there last year. Neither did great; the shallots were better than the potatoes. I think i got about six and they weren’t much bigger than when i planted them. I’m thinking i may just sit this year out, except for the peach tree, and just think about things. I love working in the garden but not getting a decent crop is not working for me. (Although, i did get great apples for the first time. And, the wild blueberries were phenomenal!!!) The plums were meh…
I have quite a few garden goals for 2017 as well. Because I am living in a new house, I am going to work with the existing garden area that is here, and the landscaping, which is well-established.
There are 2 blueberry bushes. I pruned them lightly, will fertilize, and hopefully get a crop.
There are a few strawberry plants along the shop. They are patchy and 1/2 dead and the dirt is sunken. I plan to buy another batch of berry plants, some more dirt–plant, fertilize, then hopefully eat strawberries!
There is a rhubarb and a chive bush.
The raspberries I planted will hopefully grow. We transplanted the Marion berries and left some everbearing raspberries where they were.
There is an apple, pear and peach tree. I have no idea if they will do anything, but time will tell.
I plan to plant some things on trellises because this garden is much smaller than my last one. I also may utilize the flowerbeds if I need to. I will probably need to plant corn for freezing at my sister’s farm. I am still working on formulating my exact plan of which varieties I will plant, and where. It’s still a work in progress. Thankfully, I still have several weeks before I need to or even can plant anything.
Great idea about the strawberries. Thanks
When I inherited my community garden, about 1/3 of the space was planted in strawberries. However, they had been quite neglected. I carefully dug out each plant. Then, I turned over the soil and added compost. Then replanted the strawberries. I had a bumper crop.
I also love strawberries because they will self propagate if you let them. That’s what I did last summer. I let some of the plants’ runners go and establish new plants. Long way to say that if you’re patient, you wouldn’t have to buy more plants.
After horrendous rainstorms, my entire back yard was under water earlier this week, as well as a large portion of my front yard. My backyard is shaded year around, except for the drainage ditch. I have determined it I am going to have a garden of any sort it will have to be in the small portion of the front yard that gets sun. I think I have good soil, it just stays soggy……lol. I could do raised beds in the front, I believe. That is my goal.
You mentioned wanting to plant more blackberry bushes. I’ve had blackberry bushes for a few years and noticed that any of the canes that touch the ground have rooted themselves. I’ve just cut them apart from the main plant and they’ve done well. In fact last year I cut the canes short in preparation for fall. But life happened and the cut canes were left lying on the ground for a week until I had to move them so my husband could mow the lawn. I noticed that about a 1/3 of the canes on the bottom of the pile had rooted themselves in a week’s time. I just dug them up and moved them to the garden where they survived and grew quite a bit this summer. New bushes for free!
I went through all my seeds yesterday and decided what I need to order to fill in gaps. I’m also deciding where to plant what. I have two raised beds and a greenhouse — I’m still learning what does best in the best and what I should grown in the greenhouse. The garden didn’t do very well last year, but I am hoping for better results this year.
No garden plans this year…..no yard since moving into an apartment. However, I think I might do some herbs and maybe a small tomato plant on the balcony. I guess I could do some lettuce…hmmm. Maybe I will. I think my daughter wants to start gardening, so maybe I’ll help her get one started at her new place. I am hoping to frequent the many farmer’s markets in the area though.
I have started my seed lists – in fact my Pinetree garden catalog is looking a little tattered from being brought to all of hubby’s doc appointment – it also has lots of circles and stars in it 😀 It will be three months though before I can even really begin to think of gardening outside again.
I will only be focusing on planting beans, lettuces, carrots, potatoes, squash and cukes. We will be spending alot of time at our new little lot up North and we are beginning the process of figuring out what we need to do to sell our current home to get out from under a mortgage. I don’t want to plant anything more permanent that I cannot take with me. I may plant some dwarf fruit trees in very large containers if I do buy any – that way I will be able to move them even if I have to dump out the soil to do so.
My gardening plans are simple. My oldest girl does most of the planning since she and her family moved back 4years ago. That is her interest and education…agricultural and animal science. She plans, orders seed, start seedlings, transplants, saves seeds, uses a mix of standards and heirlooms. With help from my husband, her husband and our youngest daughter they plant, weed and harvest. This year our tenants are fitting into the equation as they want to garden too. The have worked out with her labor in exchange for produce so they don’t need to plant their own separate garden. I have my patio garden of raised beds and pots that I can access easily. My main job of course is dealing with the combined harvest…canning, freezing and drying. Our goal is always to grow everything we possibly can for fresh eating and to last us though to the next growing season.
I had barberry bushes. They are beautiful. The variety I had were awful. The thorns get into your skins and fester and they are awful to get out.. My husband had around 50 in his arms and face. The got infected. I don’t know the variety because they were here when I moved here. My dog got one in her lips and cheek. It was terrible to pick them out of both of them. I dug them out and threw them away. They do have thorns for sure. There are several varieties. I would never buy them, especially with children or pets. Bad experience. I hope that helps.
What a great idea waiting until the end of the month if you need to shop. Then you know your bills are paid. I think you do a great job with your children, they care, food and skills. I know I didn’t get half of what you get done. I need to stay out of the stores too. I did find a lot of clearance foods and holiday items. 50-90% off. What a wonderful family you have. Mine are all grown now and it does go fast. God bless.
These are right along the walkway and I will be working here often inside the bushes, so I definitely don’t want thorns. The children play along here and of course any guests walk this path to get to the front door, as do we.
Holly, I asked about the natal plums at the nursery earlier thus month. I spoke with the manager and he was working with the guy who orders everything at the time, and that man actually knew more about them. He said they don’t like the frost here and will turn black, and that they usually die with frost. I want something that is green all year in this spot, which is why I am switching to hedges, since the strawberries, though green in winter, burnt to a crisp in summer. I want something that will edge the area that will always be green.
I’ve always been curious about natal plums so I’m glad to learn they aren’t the best thing in our climate (they also like a more acidic soil and water) before I bought them and had them die. I’ve done that with other things, and they always end up dying, so I’m glad to be planting something that I know will make it here.
Hi, Brandy! I love your blog and benefit so much from your knowledge. Thank you for sharing so much with us. I have a question: like you, we live in an arid climate (the Phoenix area). We are trying to establish a garden, but have awful problems with invading Bermuda grass. Do you have that problem as well? If so, how do you manage the grass and keep it from invading your garden areas? We actually had to give up on our in-ground garden because the Bermuda took it over and we had to kill it all. 🙁 I would so appreciate any insights you can offer to help with this problem!
Brandy, can you tell me the name of that white-bleached tree in the corner of your yard? The one in the second photo, with the armillary? Thanks!
Grass does not naturally grow here. If someone has planted bermuda grass, then you can have a problem. That said, I did end up with a bit of an invasive grass problem, thanks to some still-fresh local manure (I won’t go that route again!) and I’ve been battling it for 10 years without getting rid of it. Vinegar might work, but I don’t know about eradicating it completely. I just have to keep on top of it. I have rid some areas that got it; you have to get every single lit bit out of the ground. It’s a lot of work and best done when it’s dormant.
Sure Sue! That is a Mission Fig tree. It will leaf out in April. It’s a great shade tree for the desert, fruits [i]twice a year[/i]!, and has fairly soft branches, which make it easy to prune.
Brandy, you might try to propagate the Euonymus bushes just cut 10 12 inch pieces, strip lower leaves and stick in the ground. or a pot or a jar with water. My mother created complete hedges this way, lol.
Alison, I have propagated them before. It takes quite about 5 years to get a hedge from 1-gallon plants and longer from propagated ones. I have several newly propagated bushes growing this year, but I also purchased some on sale in April for the front yard, as I needed the hedge to fill in sooner.