A Gardener’s Christmas

So what does a keen gardener do over Christmas, when the garden is soaking wet or snowy, the weather is freezing cold, and working outside seems like a game for crazy people…?

This is what this gardener is planning 🙂

  • Read new gardening books. Dead-tree books from our local indie bookstore, Breakwater Books, and Kindle books on my tablet. It’s amazing that there are still new things to say about gardening, but people still  manage to do so. This year there are plenty of Permaculture books in the mix.
  • Plant seeds! In my previous post I told you about Winter Sowing, and that’s what I’ll be doing. One of the nice things about winter sowing is that you can cheerfully sow old seed without a big investment in fuss or containers: if it comes up, great, but if not, no big loss.
  • Read seed catalogs. Can get lost in these for hours on end 🙂
  • Eat homegrown food. This does require going outside in the wet if I want to harvest parsnips and brussels sprouts, but it’s worth it. And there are potatoes, squash, garlic and other stored veggies to choose from inside.
  • Dream and plan next year’s garden. With all the factors of crop rotation, shade, soil, deerproof-ness, timing, etc this can take a while, so it’s best to start early.

Whatever your Christmas gardening plans, I hope you have a pleasant and peaceful holiday.

Winter Sowing – easy way to start lots of plants for your garden

Winter sown milk jugs
Winter sown milk jugs

Starting seeds indoors can take up a lot of space. Outdoors, things take a long time and can get destroyed by weather and animals.

Winter Sowing is a method which lets you sow your seeds indoors, then set them outdoors but protected, so they get started sooner and are less likely to be damaged. And no, you don’t need a greenhouse!

One of the best parts is that you get to play in the dirt in the winter – I usually start in December. All that pent-up gardening energy from reading the seed catalogs can be put to good use right away!

Here are a couple of links to get you started:



Different kinds of Lime for the Garden

Most people in our area lime their gardens because of the acid soil we have. The most common kind to find locally is dolomite lime, which contains magnesium carbonate as well as the calcium carbonate which forms regular, or “Agricultural” lime.

Magnesium is a soil nutrient that is needed along with the usual NPK macro nutrients we pay attention to, but if you add it every year in the form of dolomite lime you may end up adding too much, unbalancing the Calcium/Magnesium ratio in your soil. In clay soils particularly, this can “tighten up” the soil and make it hard to dig and hard to form a good “tilth”.

How do you know if your soil has too much magnesium? You’d need to get a soil test from a lab to be sure. Personally I’ll be alternating aglime and dolomite lime in the garden from now on, while I get a soil test done.