By C J Oakes

The holidays are over and winter is officially upon us. Many take January as a time for relaxing before getting started on spring gardens. Well, we are half-way through January, so guess what?

Time to Get Ready for Spring Gardening

That is right. No resting on your laurels. Time to end the breather. Get started now on your garden or the rest is history.

Ok, cliches aside, January is the right time to get started planning and preparing your spring flower beds, herb gardens, and veggie crops. Here is a brief guide to making the most of the rest of the month.

Start Planning the Spring Garden

To get started planning, get out all your old seeds. Find them all. You said last year you would use them this year, so do it. Step one is get them all together.

Once you know what you have, sort by what you would like to plant. Check the back of the packages (if working from store stock) for the best planting times and note these. Then, take two or three seeds from each batch to test.

To test the seeds, simply revert to the old elementary school pinto bean project. Remember it? Paper towel in a zip-lock bag. Moisten the towel. Place seeds onto the towel within the bag and zip it closed. Place in window sill for a few days and see what grows.

(Handy Tip: Be sure to mark the seeds on the exterior of the bag using a Sharpie if mixing different batches in a single zip-lock. This way you keep track of which is which – ask me how I know this is a handy trick.)

In the Greenhouse

Now is a good time to start growing certain vegetables and flowers for spring plantings in the greenhouse. This will allow young plants to mature enough to handle early frosts while letting them get their roots deep enough to handle the hot summer to come.

Start vegetable seeds to start indoors are:

  • broccoli
  • cabbage
  • cauliflower
  • collards
  • early onions
  • eggplant
  • peppers
  • tomatoes
  • kale
  • lettuce
  • spinach
  • broccoli rabe
  • arrugula

Flowers which will perform best if started in-doors or in a greenhouse this month include:

  • begonia
  • lobelia
  • petunia
  • ice plant
  • snapdragon
  • verbena

In the Yard

If planning a veggie garden and have not yet considered creating a rotation for your crops, now would be a good time to start. January is a great time to begin tilling fertilizer into the soil. A good blend (of manure, of course) is 40 – 50 pounds per 100 square foot of garden space. That is when tilling 6 – 8 inches, which should be the minimum for hard West Texas soil.

When adding fertilizer, recall what was planted where. Now, for a rotational system, you can get as fancy as you want or as simple. The most important thing is that you do not plant the same crop in the same location year after year. This depletes certain nutrients while increasing others. It causes an imbalance in the soil which can harm future plantings.

Also, if you happen to have Apple trees, watch for early new vertical growth and decide now if you want to keep it. If not, prune it. If so, decide how you will direct or use the new growth.

And this brings us to other plants in the yard. Any flower or fruit trees will have dead branches from winter and may start budding new shoots any day now. The alternating cold/warm days encourages such growth and left to itself, it could become a problem later. Now is the time to deal with it.

Parting Thoughts

Flower beds are handled just like veggie plots – add fertilizer and start working the soil in anticipation of spring. Anything dead must go; new growth must be noted.

Finally, if there were any trees or shrubs you wanted to transplant, now is the time. The rootstocks will still be largely dormant and moving the plant now will cause the least stress to it.

Complete these items and before you know it, January will be over and it will be time for February. Get Ready.