Now is the time to prepare for the spring garden. December is upon us, all the intensive work has been done and most of the crops have stopped growing. Here are three things to do in the December garden to make the spring garden work easier.
Task #1: Prepare row covers for light frosts or freezes
If you are hit with an unexpected cold snap in December or January, you can merely cover the plants with a sheet or two.
If you plan ahead, you can create row covers for when a frost or freeze is expected. You can easily make a PVC/rebar/Row cover hoop house from materials at your local big box building supply store. Here is the video link with instructions.
A quick synopsis is to use lengths of 1/2″ rebar and 1″ PVC, cover with sheets or other cloth. You can get row cover material at farm stores, or buy frost blankets at home improvement stores. These can be made as long as required to cover your plot.
If you have more time to prepare (think NOW before there is a real chance of frost or freeze), you can make a portable cold frame. Cold frames in Zone 9 seem to be overkill, but a small one might be nice now and then. This one is easily stored out of the way during the summer, and can be put out with only a little advance notice. The link and video is here.
This plan is for a 48″ square cold frame. You may need more than one to cover your crops.
Task #2: Clean up your garden
I’ve been talking about this the last month or so. With weeding and leaves falling, the area can get untidy fast. So, it is a continuous December thru January task.
* Mulch the unused beds. Work compost into the beds. Possibly plant with a green cover crop if you haven’t already. In December, the cover crop will take a while to germinate, and may not grow at all. You may be too late for that idea.
* Clean up paths and work areas. This makes the garden much more attractive and easier to work in. Since you won’t be doing much bed preparation, clean up and organize the work area. Don’t tell anyone, but I still need to do that.
* Clean your tools. Sharpen cutting edges, either by yourself with a file, or take them to a handyman. Remove any rust. Oil the hinges and moving parts. If your tools have wooden handles, rub them down with Linseed oil to condition the wood. December may be a good time to clean and organize your garden shed to prepare for spring.
Task #3: Plan the 2017 Garden
Look at seed catalogs online or ones you receive in the mail. Think about last year’s garden, and next years garden, also. Decide what plants did well, and what didn’t. Figure out why they did (or didn’t) do well, and what you can do about it. Decide if you planted too much or too little of a crop. Experiment with planting different crops or varieties of crops that you like. You may find another keeper. Ask your family what they want in the garden. Don’t plant crops you won’t be using.
Plan out where each vegetable variety will go. What will be planted together, and what must be kept separate. When to plant to avoid pest damage (oops, you planted too late!) or frost damage (oops, you planted too early!).
After you complete these 3 things to do in your December garden, be sure to keep good notes. In 2018, you will be glad you did, because you will have the knowledge to get ahead of the gardening curve, and be on your way to being an expert gardener.
DIY Hoop House:
DIY Cold Frame:
And, let me know how you are making out. Ask questions in the comment section below, I’ll find the answers and we can grow in knowledge together