You are here

Gardeners Checklist: Here Is What to Do on the Week of Jan. 29

Gardeners Checklist: Here Is What to Do on the Week of Jan. 29

By Ron Kujawski

• Bring some houseplants along when taking your morning shower. This is not as much to have company while you shower as it is to cleanse the dust and grime from leaves of the plants. Houseplants collect a lot of grime in our tightened-up homes in winter. If you’re too shy to shower with your plants, use a damp cloth to wipe the grunge from their leaves. Do not use plant shine products as they tend to clog the fine pores in plant leaves.

• Cure winter blues by buying some flowering plants at your local garden center. Flowering plants that brighten your home and mood include: forced bulbs, orchids, primrose, cyclamen, tropical hibiscus, clivia, jasmine, citrus, miniature roses, and ranunculus. While you’re at it, get a plant for a friend, especially someone who is housebound. They’ll feel better and you will too.

• Think fruit when planning additions to the food garden. Tree fruit are nice, but the beginning gardener will find it more satisfying to start with the so-called small fruit, i.e. strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries. Small fruit are easier to grow and come into production much sooner than tree fruit.

• Take cuttings from geraniums, coleus, fuchsia, and other houseplants that will be planted out in window boxes or flower gardens in late spring.

* * *

I was browsing through the book “Recipes from the Root Cellar” by Andrea Chesman (2010, Storey Publishing) looking for new recipes for winter squash when I came to a realization. While we store many vegetables from our garden for winter use, there are many more that we could be storing. I’m talking about dry storage as opposed to canning or freezing, of which we also do plenty. Dry storage simply means plopping (technical term for “placing”) veggies on shelves, in crates, baskets, or buckets without deploying any special treatment. We already do this with winter squash, leeks, onions, shallots, garlic, carrots, potatoes, and dry beans. However, we could also be storing turnips, rutabagas, celery root (celeriac), parsnips, salsify, and sweet potatoes. Beets are on the list but I am not a fan of the beet. At one time or another, we’ve grown all of these, with the exception of salsify, but have not put them in dry storage. Of course, dry storage is a little more involved than I’ve implied but not much more. The key to long term dry storage is cold temperature (above freezing), humidity, and ventilation. Ideally, an old-fashioned root cellar provides the best environment for dry storage but few of us have one. Still, we manage to store vegetables in a cool, but not cold, corner of the basement. Those needing high humidity are packed in buckets with moist soil or in perforated plastic bags. They keep well for most of the winter. As we continue to try to limit our dependence on supermarkets for fresh produce, we’ll grow more crops which can be kept in dry storage in winter. 

Ron Kujawski began gardening at an early age on his family's onion farm in upstate New York. Although now retired, he spent most of his career teaching at the UMass Extension Service. He serves on Berkshire Botanical Garden’s Horticulture Advisory Committee. His book, Week-by-Week Vegetable Gardener’s Handbook, is available here.

Help Our Garden Grow!

Your donation helps us to educate and inspire visitors of all ages on the art and science of gardening and the preservation of our environment.

All Donations are 100% tax deductible.