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January Tasks and winter inspiration from Hawthorne Cottage

On chilly windy winter days I tend to prefer books to inspire me rather than the frozen ground of the garden. It is the perfect time to browse the garden magazines or catch up on your favorite garden blog.I really love cook books to get me excited about fruits and vegetables i might grow this year.I just stumbled across a strawberry butter recipe perfect for early forced strawberries in your greenhouse, it is such a simple idea that really got me excited to have that delicious flavor without the extra processing.Another interesting and simple recipe caught my eye for an open faced free range egg sandwich topped with micro greens.You can find the recipes at my recipe page.

January is the official time to make New Years Resolutions and one of my favorite is vowing to eat better and exercise, this may or may not happen, but I would rather plan for a greater future. Like plants we should dream in the winter whilst hibernating and bloom into our new year. I am someone who has a hard time running in place at a gym, I really like purpose in my exercise. So I am really lucky to have gardening as a passion. How can you beat fresh air and the satisfaction of growing something and get your physical activity? I sometimes am in great shape after an intensely rigorous garden installation and a friend will comment on how I am looking really healthy, I get to smile and let them know it has nothing to do with a gym membership, that I am actually getting paid to exercise.

Then it comes to my list of eating well,  I have decided to have a ongoing supply of Organic sprouts and micro greens available. This is something simple you can do all year and with recipes at the ready you will not end up in that unfortunate position of not knowing what to do with them.

Growing your own organic vegetables is not only rewarding, but you can be sure your family is getting the freshest, healthiest food there is. With a bit of knowledge and effort you can have nutrient dense food for your kitchen.

I find life is easier if I have tasks organized in one place, you can use your favorite device or a good old fashioned Calendar, just make sure it has enough room for extra notes and reminders. In my task lists I will make sure to note good reminders for your Calendar. 

So if you have a greenhouse I start my task list for January with:

1. Clean up of course, if you have not done it yet this is the perfect time to get all the dead plant material up and give yourself a clean start.

2. Plant pots of strawberries for an early crop under glass, trust me you will be happy with this burst of early flavor. Step by step instructions to follow.

3. Dig and pot chives for the greenhouse. 

Out in the yard and garden:

1. Once again, if you are one of the lucky ones and your ground is not frozen, now is a great time to tidy up and get rid of rotting plant material.

2. If you have not already mulched empty vegetable beds and they are not planted with a cover crop, it will give the soil some protection if you lay a 2 inch thick layer of alfalfa on the beds. It will also add some great organic matter that the worms love. I prefer alfalfa to straw or hay unless you can find a source that has not been spayed with chemicals. Alfalfa is a crop that can not handle as many herbicides and so is a much more reliable source for the organically grown garden. 

3. January is still a good time to do regenerative pruning on tired looking woody shrubs. If you are not comfortable tackling this yourself, get a garden professional in. Some shrubs do not like this type of pruning, but most are pretty resilient and it is a better option trying it before having to replace it. More info on regenerative pruning found here. 

The windowsill and house:

1. Plant a couple of trays of seeds for micro greens, write down  a reminder to start another round in two weeks, that way when you are just about finished with the first lot the next will be ready. Ideas and planting instructions can be found here.

2. Soak and sprout peas for salad, soup and sandwich toppings. These have a sweet flavor and fresh crunch that will liven up your January menus. These are a perfect to chase away the winter time food blues and they will last once sprouted up to a couple weeks in the fridge. How to sprout guide with seed picks found here. 

3. Now would be a great time to do a little sketch of your garden, this will help with planning. You can start choosing seed varieties and planning any renovations that you may have been dreaming. I suggest keeping the projects small if you are doing them yourself.

That way you will not get overwhelmed and can still enjoy your garden. If you have larger plans it is a great time of year to contact a designer or professional for advice.

4. If you have a vegetable garden, making plans for crop rotation is good to do. More information on the benefits and planning found here. If you do not have a large vegetable plot, you can plan adding organic matter and amending your soil for the healthiest plants. Taking a soil test can help determine what your soils needs are, along with taking into account what you would like to grow will give you a great start. 

5. If you are just starting a new vegetable garden, January is a great time to plan your location. Most vegetables need at least 6 hours of full sun, there are exceptions to this, such as some lettuces. But getting your head around this now will really help you in the long run. This way you do not place your growing area right under trees or next to a building that casts shade for most of the day and wonder what went wrong.