If you are like many gardeners, you probably keep notes on annual seed and plant purchases, past garden successes and failures, and even new things to try. It's a good idea to review these before you start planning your seed and equipment orders. Maps of past gardens will help you rotate plants and avoid overcrowding when planning spacing of plantings.
January is a good time to start a garden journal or even just a file where you can store articles clipped out of newspapers and magazines, or lists of ideas you want to try in the garden. A good place to get a few new ideas is by taking a class or joining a garden club. Interested? Most gardeners love to talk about gardening and won't mind sharing some of their tried and true methods and products with you. Or apply to the Market Gardener Training Program (MGTP) offered by Ohio State University Extension’s Urban Agriculture Program in Cuyahoga County.
Check the seeds you saved and stored from last year's garden. Discard anything that is damp, diseased, moldy, or in otherwise bad condition. Look over what's left, and determine what you need to order.
You also should take a look at squash, potatoes, root crops, and other vegetables and fruits in winter storage. Although conditions may have been ideal when you harvested and stored them in the fall, the cold, wet winter may make that location too wet or damp. Toss anything that has spoiled or has soft spots. The same goes for summer flower bulbs like dahlias and gladioli that you saved to plant this year.
As many avid gardeners have discovered, it's wise to plan your seed order with other gardeners. This will allow you to save money while growing a wider variety of crops and flowers. In addition, some seed companies offer discounts or free seeds for early bird and/or large orders. Just don't fall into the trap of ordering more than you can use. That's where the notes you kept from past years will be useful.
If you need to replace a tiller or want to add a few new gardening tools to your inventory, start comparison shopping in January. Granted, some of this equipment won't be available for purchase in garden centers for a few more months. But by studying catalogs and magazines, talking to friends, and even surfing the Internet now, you will have a better idea of what you want and won't waste valuable time in the spring deciding what to buy.
The same goes for landscape plants. Although you wouldn't be able to plant them now, even if you could buy them, this "down time" in gardening is perfect for planning. Start thinking about what you need to fill in gaps in your landscape or what new plants you'd like to try. It may help to take a walk around your property to visualize where landscape improvements are needed or where you might put in a new flower bed. Think about color, scents, textures, and shapes. Then scout out companies that carry what's on your wish list.
No yard or garden is complete without statuary, gazing balls, sundials, and garden whimsies that make the space uniquely yours. Shop now for what you'll need in the spring to accessorize your lawn, garden, and flower beds. Use your imagination.
This January get creative in the workshop. Build a bat house or a birdhouse or two. Paint garden furniture. Construct artificial lighting set-ups for growing houseplants or starting transplants indoors. Or install a composting bin in your basement, adding a handful of red worms to turn your vegetable table scraps into rich compost for the garden.
Good Luck and Get Planning!
Planning Now for Next Years Crop: Seed Saving
By Todd Rogers
You are growing your own supply of seeds for next year if you stop and look around your garden. Your tomatoes, peppers, pumpkins, melons and more are stuffed full of seeds just waiting for you to collect for next year. The benefits of savings your own seeds are plentiful:
If you are interested in these benefits then getting started is relatively easy. First harvest your seeds when they are mature, this is typically after a fruit has fully ripened. Next step is to separate the seed. This can be done by shaking loose or scooping out of fruit. Next dry out the seeds in a cool dry place. And finally collect the seeds and put in a envelope or container. Be sure to include the name of the plant and the date. Seeds will typically be good for 1-2 years.
For more detailed Seed Saving information visit Cleveland Seed Bank How-to videos (http://www.clevelandseedbank.org/how-to-videos-2/) and the upcoming Cleveland Seed Bank Event:
Seed Saving Workshop
2913 East 117th Street, Cleveland, OH, United States
Raining on the Butterfly Effect: How to Reduce Fees, Divert Rainwater, and Garden
by Chris Hanson
Have you ever heard of The Butterfly Effect? In Chaos Theory, it is the idea that a tiny, minute action can have drastic effects on the other side of the world, such as a fleeting butterfly in New Mexico causing a typhoon in Japan. But sometimes, those actions and the effects can take place at your home and just down the road.
Residents of the Heights communities tend to hear a lot about damaging stormwater and solutions to its runoff problems, including rain barrels, rain gardens, and reducing impervious surface. We tend to think of surfaces such as concrete driveways, sidewalks, and other materials sitting on the ground that rain doesn’t easily pass through. Impervious surfaces include rooftops, driveways, and even decks.
Okay, so the rain obviously can’t pass through the concrete, cement, the roof, etc. When it rains, doesn’t it just go around the object and head into the soil? Yes and no. Driveways, rooftops, patios, and other surfaces, if installed correctly, slope away from your home, and guide water into the grates on the roadway. Our system for handling sewage and stormwater was built awhile ago. It was not designed for the region’s population size or the amount of impervious surface.
The other problem is the one under our feet. Heights communities are built on an escarpment, a geographical term for a long, steep slope, especially one at the edge of a plateau or separating areas of land at different heights. This is how all of the Heights cities got their names. Think of it as the dividing line between the Great Lakes Basin and the Allegheny Plateau. Whereas this shale formation saved our area during the last glacial epoch, it left behind relatively poorly-drained soils and clay formations.
Because there is little use of groundwater, our buildings were designed to route stormwater runoff directly to storm sewers, then into streams, and finally our Great Lake. At least, that’s how it’s supposed to work. Because of urban sprawl and the immediate rush of water to our streams, we experience flooding. Recall the calamitous events that took place in along Rt. 77 in Cuyahoga Heights not too long ago. Exner (2011) provides county-wide local flood maps, the first such in 40 years. Find yours here.
In other areas of the country, better landscape design and newer systems are used to treat this problem. Milwaukee, for example, has expanded “gray infrastructure,” or stormwater and sewage systems (Keeley et al., 2013). This is fine for when an area is still growing, but what about when a city, such as Cleveland Heights, is shrinking?
That’s where institutions such as the Kent State University Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative play a role in finding solutions that work for cities with shrinking populations (and budgets). They believe that vacant lots create green space that absorbs rainwater, but to make a larger difference, there are wide-scale changes needed with many stakeholders (LaCroix, 2010). A study by Case Western Reserve in 2013 (Jennings, et al.) found that there are a few local solutions that will help with stormwater management:
Because we can’t afford to create an entirely new gray infrastructure immediately, hyper-local changes are necessary. Downspout disconnects are haphazard because the water runoff may ruin basements. Permeable Pavement installation can sometimes be expensive. The best solutions for homeowners are Rain Gardens and Rain Barrels.
According to the Cuyahoga Soil and Water Conservation District, about 60% of our municipal water supply goes directly to watering our lawns. It is easy to change that and use a rainwater supply, thereby reducing runoff. Installing rain barrels, which are at local companies like Rain Barrels N’ More. Making a rain barrel by yourself is a cinch too. Local plumbing manufacturer Oatey makes a unique downspout attachment that diverts water to the rain barrel using a garden hose mount.
NEORSD began billing for Stormwater Management the second half of 2016, but there is help you can get to mitigate the both the effects of rainwater and fees. Contact the Doan Brook Watershed Program to assess your property. Community members will be able to divert rainwater, save some money, and even grow some fresh food with relatively little effort. You could even contribute to a greater Lake, and minimize “the butterfly effect.”
Exner, R. (2011, February 14). Cuyahoga County flood maps. Retrieved August 07, 2016, from http://www.cleveland.com/datacentral/index.ssf/2011/02/cuyahoga_county_flood_maps.html
Jennings, A. A., Adeel, A. A., Hopkins, A., Litofsky, A. L., & Wellstead, S. W. (2013). Rain Barrel-Urban Garden Stormwater Management Performance. Journal Of Environmental Engineering, 139(5), 757-765. doi:10.1061/(ASCE)EE.1943-7870.0000663
Keeley, M., Koburger, A., Dolowitz, D. P., Medearis, D., Nickel, D., & Shuster, W. (2013). Perspectives on the use of green infrastructure for stormwater management in Cleveland and Milwaukee. Environmental Management, 51(6), 1093-1108. doi:10.1007/s00267-013-0032-x
Kroll, K. (2009, August 13). Oatey, a Cleveland plumbing manufacturer, is dipping into rain barrels. Retrieved August 07, 2016, from http://www.cleveland.com/business/index.ssf/2009/08/gus_chanthe_plain_dealerdennis.html
LaCroix, C. J. (2010). Urban Agriculture and Other Green Uses: Remaking the Shrinking City. Urban Lawyer, 42(2), 225-285.