Ann Wright: Garden plans for a New Year
December 29, 2017
Just like that, another year has gone by! Going into January is a good time to continue planning for spring gardens, adding to landscape ornamentals and roses.
One way to start planning is to get a note pad or paper, go outside and look around your growing areas. Jot down ideas about what you think will grow well in a given area. Consider the right plant planted in the right place at the right time. Think about microclimates on your property.
Some plants may grow well with a more southern exposure; some will enjoy the north side of the house with more shade. Some plants such as bare root fruit trees, ornamental trees, roses, cane berries, and strawberries can be planted in January and February. So far we've had a very dry December, but the rain we have had has softened the soil, so it's a nice time to work the soil to prepare beds for bare root planting.
This is a good time to look through seed catalogs, thinking ahead to spring vegetable gardens. The choices are staggering — and, as Master Gardeners will say, grow vegetables you like to eat.
If cool season crops such as broccoli, chard, cabbage or beets are on your radar, January is a good time to start seeds indoors. If you haven't tried starting plants indoors, try just a few to see how it goes.
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Once the small starts are big enough to put outside, many cool season vegetables can be planted outside 4 to 6 weeks before the last spring freeze, which varies depending on elevation. (So far we have had a fairly warm November and December with night time temperatures in the '30s, some higher elevations have consistently dropped below 32 degrees.)
Time for bulbs
January is also a good time to consider summer blooming plants derived from bulbs, corms, tubers and rhizomes. Again, there are many varieties and colors from which to choose. Not all flowers from "bulbs" are actually true bulbs.
Although all are considered underground storage, organs bulbs, corms, tubers and rhizomes are quite different. Think of bulbs as underground stems with layers like an artichoke or an onion.
Bulbs have complex anatomy but in simple terms can reproduce via one of the layers on the bulb, or from the flower that is produced from the base. Examples of true bulbs are tulips, daffodils (narcissus), hyacinth and lilies.
Corms are masses of solid tissue without separate layers or scales as in bulbs. A single corm can form on top of another corm, and small "cormels" can form around the large corm. Examples of corms are anemones, crocus and gladiolus.
Tubers are fleshy storage organs which are formed from a stem or a root such as a potato where the underground stem produces new shoots from eyes or buds on the surface. Individual chunks of the tuber which contain a bud or an "eye" may produce a new plant which is not something that can be done with corms and bulbs.
Dahlias, begonias and cyclamen are examples of plants that grow from tubers. Rhizomes grow horizontally sending up leaves and flowers at intervals. Rhizomes can be cut into sections with each piece having one lateral bud or eye. Iris, bamboo and lily of the valley are examples of plants that grow from rhizomes.
New year with new challenges
As a new year begins, there are always new challenges in gardening. The Nevada County Master Gardeners appreciate the participation of our community at our events and workshops.
We enjoy meeting people from the area; your questions and comments help guide us as we develop new programs and educational offerings. New public workshops have been added to the roster of educational opportunities for 2018.
Workshops begin again on Feb. 3 with "Plan It! Gardening 12 Months a Year" from 10 a.m. to noon at the Elk's Lodge in Grass Valley, 109 S. School Street.
Other resources for public education include the telephone Hotline (530-273-0919) and weekly on-site office attendance by Master Gardeners from 9 a.m. to noon on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Vet's Hall, 255 South Auburn St. in Grass Valley.
Or, tune into the weekly "Master Gardeners and Friends" radio program presented on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon (on 830 AM, KNCO) which provides an opportunity for listeners to call the Master Gardeners with gardening questions or concerns.
We look forward to 2018 — Happy New Year and happy gardening!
Ann Wright is a Nevada County Master Gardener.