We are in winter. Some days there is no doubt to that statement as wind chills put the temperature into the teens; on other days, the weather is balmy and in the 50s. That is still too cold and too wet to work in the garden, and therein lies my biggest personal challenge: to stay out of the garden when the soil is wet. If I ignore what I know, I create hardened soil sculptures that are not an asset to the gardener. My misdirected enthusiasm has caused this in the past. Now, I keep telling myself to be patient; to redirect my focus. So let me share with you how I attempt to redirect my focus: I plan, I dream, I assess what I have and what I should or could do and whether this is the year to do it. Winter months are for planning. There are eight months in which to “do.”
Order Your Seeds Now
Have you got your seed catalogs? If you collected seeds from last year’s plants, to have success in this year’s garden those seeds must have been collected from non-hybrid plants. Those plants are also known as heirloom, open-pollinated or pure. Hybrid plants do not produce plants that will generate like-kind edibles. Part of the winter planning is to determine if you will be harvesting for seeds next fall. You will need to buy the proper seed or plants to accomplish this successfully.
There is a seed exchange planned for the Boro Garden Show and Party on March 18 and 19. If you have extra, non-hybrid seeds from last year’s harvest, be sure to take part in the free exchange. Not only is the exchange an adventurous activity but also is a cost-saving measure.
Making Your Seed Tape
A good winter activity that can be done by adults or children is to make your own seed tape. This is an idea that I placed on dogbonesnetwork.com as a link. You will need three bowls, a roll of toilet paper, a paint brush, flour, water and the seeds. The seeds go in one bowl, the water in another and a tablespoon of flour paste (white flour and water) made to pancake batter consistency goes into the third. Roll out the toilet paper on a flat surface to a length that you find manageable. Using the paintbrush, drop the flour mixture by dots onto the toilet paper. The dots should be placed at the correct distance between plants and rows. Then wash the brush in clear water and dip it into the seeds. Drop 2-3 seeds on each paste dot. You may need to do this in short sections. When you have your length completed, all flour dots have seeds. Cover this length of TP with another layer of TP, thus sealing the seeds onto the paste. There should be enough flour paste on the original length of TP to make the top layer stick to the bottom one. Let it dry and then roll it up until you are ready to plant them. When you are planting the seed tape, first make a trench that is the correct depth for those seeds. Lay the tape down, cover it with soil and then water it. The TP quickly dissolves as the seeds germinate. This process is frugal, as seed is not wasted from thinning since every seed that germinates has sufficient room to grow.
Classes for gardening are offered at The UT Extension Service. You can browse extension.tennessee.edu/rutherford or stop by their office for info and free handouts.
When the Farmers’ Market opens, there are free classes offered each market day at 9 a.m. Weekly posts can be found at facebook.com/RutherfordCountyFarmersMarket. Some of the classes from the last two years are at youtube.com/RCFarmersMarket.
Another resource are the classes offered at libraries and garden shows. There are two garden shows within a quick drive: Murfreesboro and Nashville. This is the first year for the Murfreesboro Garden Show and Party (gardenshowandparty.com). It is organized by local Murfreesboro people, and sponsored by and the Murfreesboro Pulse.
There are classes being offered during The Garden Show and Party on March 18 and 19. The event will be held at the Community Center on the UT extension campus, located at 315 John R. Rice Blvd., near Sam’s Club. The classes are offered between 10:30 and 4 each day. At press time, the following classes have been confirmed:
Aysha Harward from TerraNektar Farms in Readyville will be presenting at 10:30 a.m. Friday. Her topic is “How Can Herbs Come to the Rescue for Colds & Flu?” and will include a workshop.
On Saturday at 10:30 a.m., RC Master Gardener Mark Murphy will be presenting “All About Organic Gardening and Growing Food Naturally: Starting or Improving Your Garden.”
At 12:30 p.m., Linell from Monarch Meadow will be speaking on the importance of the Monarch butterfly. Her class is entitled, “Milkweeds and How to Grow Them: Attracting Monarchs to Your Garden.” Be sure to check the day’s listings of classes as more will be added in the coming month.