New England & Maritime Canada
Snow is flying and gardeningchores are reduced to watering the window pots of parsley, sage and Thai hot peppers brought in from the garden. It's time to enjoy last season's harvest and start planning for the next. A personalized planting chart will help you know when to start seeds for your garden and how many plants you will need. Rule a large sheet of paper with columns for each vegetable you plant, and mark rows for each month. For each crop, mark the dates you start seed, transplant and harvest in the appropriate columns and rows. Note the size of your planting and if the amount harvested met your family's needs. With a few years of fine-tuning for extra-early crops, main crops and fall plantings, you will have a seasonal task calendar exactly suited to your individual site and tastes. (See the chart on Page 57 for more tipson garden planting times.)
December is the time to garden on paper. Pay attention to what problems you experienced last year and try to plan a rotation with these in mind. To discourage scab on your spring potatoes, plant them where your late corn grew. Early root crops are a good choice to follow winter squash since that area will tend to be low in annual weed seeds. Go through your stored winter vegetables every week or two, culling out the bad ones. Save seed for planting next year from your best open-- pollinated winter squash as you eat them. In mid-January, start bulb onions from seed indoors or in a greenhouse. Take advantage of the first warm spells to sow some cold-tolerant lettuce and Chinese greens outdoors.
Here in the South, where setting out plants at Easter is a rule of (green) thumb, midwinter is prime indoor sowing time for those seeds that take a bit longer to get started. Begonias take 14 to 16 weeks to mature, so seeds started on New Year's Eve will be blooming in your hanging baskets and window boxes by mid-spring. 'Dragon Wing' begonia is a spectacular new pink hybrid to try, with enormous plants that drink up our southern heat and humidity. Start geraniums, lisianthus, aquilegias, pansies and vincas before the end of January. Pick a sunny, dry day to prepare vegetable beds for spring crops. Except for the Piedmont and other cooler areas, January is time to begin planting cabbage, carrots, lettuce and hardy greens, radish and turnips. So when those tempting catalogs appear in the mailbox, do more than just dream about spring planting-start sowing!
Keep an eye out for freezing temperatures. Cut back tropical plants and winterize your tender plantings with layers of mulch. (Keep a cover handy for when freezes are predicted.) Don't fertilize warm-season turf-grasses now: They have entered dormancy and any forced growth is vulnerable to freezing. Prune ornamental evergreens and plant pansies and other cool-season bedding plants. Tulips and hyacinths that have been chilled for six weeks should be ready to plant by late December. Prepare vegetable beds for spring planting before late winter rains make soil too wet to work. December is time to plant onion transplants, hardy greens and root crops, and start seed for cabbage-family transplants. Later in January, start planting potatoes and lettuce, and sow seed for tomato, pepper and eggplant spring-garden transplants.