Don’t believe it when garden writers say winter is a time to relax. Here in the north garden vegetable area we are speeding up to get everything done in time for spring.
The cooler temperatures make it great time to take on hardscaping projects. We made an 80 foot long blackberry trellis from cattle panels and T-posts. The cattle panels are inexpensive, sturdy, and versatile but their 16 foot length requires some planning for how to transport them.
The vertically trained blackberry canes will get more sun and the berries will be much easier (and less hazardous) to harvest. Fortunately we pruned the second year floricanes after they fruited last summer making the task of training the remaining canes much easier.
The vegetable team has been hard at work sheet mulching to create four new in ground beds. We are also amending the soil in the Donation Garden and former watermelon patch with mycorrhizal fungi, dried molasses, and compost to enhance nutrient uptake. We have planted fava beans in the central in ground bed to fix nitrogen for the next crop.
January is the time to plant short day and intermediate day onion slips in Dallas. The day length refers to the amount of sunlight needed for the onions to bulb. We have planted the sunniest side of the Donation Garden with two short day varieties, the TAMU developed Texas Super Sweet Onion which is on the Texas Superstar list; and a disease resistant hybrid called Southern Belle Red Onion.
It is also a very busy time for seed starting. Buttercrunch lettuce started indoors on December 23 was ready to plant but the unusually warm December weather turned into a wave of freezes after New Year’s Day. We ended up harvesting the outer leaves in a “cut and come again” fashion and adding them to a food bank donation of salad greens and the last of the fall tomatoes. The lettuce seedlings can still be transplanted outdoors and will tolerate light frost (28 to 33 degrees Fahrenheit).
We are cutting it a little bit close but can still start our tomato seeds before the end of January. This year we are sticking mainly with small and medium size tomatoes. Why? There is less time for things to go wrong before they mature! Our varieties will include Super Sweet 100, Sweetie, Sun Gold, Early Girl, Roma, and Berkeley Tie Dye Pink, which was submitted as a favorite by area gardeners to The Dallas Garden School.
The Atlantis F1 Hybrid Mini Broccoli produced very well but we lost several plants during the worst of the early January freezes. Because it requires only a few weeks to mature we will able to have a second crop along with another fast maturing mini broccoli called Sweet Stem F1.
We tried several varieties of peppers last year and were pleased with how productive and easy to grow they were. Also, our preschool visitors were delighted when they were each allowed to pick one. This year we will be growing Jimmy Nardello, Gypsy, North Star, Marconi Rossi, Tajin, and Aji Dulce peppers. They can be started indoors by seed now and throughout February.
Radishes require only about a month to mature so we have a habit of planting the seeds anywhere we have a bit of extra space during the cooler months. Spinach takes 40 – 60 days but can be planted outdoors now through early March. It has been another easy to grow crop.
Garden writers, take note, winter is a time to get a lot done that will make spring and summer more productive.
Beverly Allen, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2018