January Garden 2020

Growing lights

Growing lights

After two years of growing lights in the living space of our house, I have finally been able to move them to the basement. I am hoping they still grow despite it being around 46 degrees down there. They should at least stay alive and grow slowly as it is not quite down to freezing. Once the greenhouse is finished being built, I will move everything over there. For now though, I am growing tomatoes, avocado, lemon, and grapefruit trees under lights. Once I germinate some more seeds in the warmth, I will start moving them down there as well.

I have been topping off my wood chips in areas that moles have turned the soil over allowing weeds to grow. In some areas I added cardboard below the wood chips like I should have done to begin with. Better late than never though. 🙂

I planted another seven pounds of seed potatoes as we only had enough potatoes in our garden to last us six months. I might buy a few more pounds to get us through next year. We tend to eat potatoes at least once a week as hash browns. I am adding more wood chips over all my potatoes as I hardly have any covering for them as is. This will also help rid my potato field of some weeds that have been able to grow through the thin layer of mulch. For some reason my potatoes put on greens even in December and January. Must not be too cold for them even in winter.

I also got eight more purple asparagus root cuttings. We originally planted six which is not much at all. I planted these along the current row.

I bought more sweet and yellow onion bulbs for this year. I gave up on the potato onions as they never thrived andmost ended up rotting with our wet winters. I may try shallots some more as they are cheaper and easier to find. I have around one hundred bulbs I am planting as they take some time to get to size.

I shoveled a whole wagon full of chicken manure from under their coop. I spread this all over my garden. This is my fertilizer for the year. I added extra manure to where my nitrogen loving plants grew to feed the soil back what they took. Every year my soil should get richer in nutrients with the wood chips and leaves breaking down, and the manure added. Hopefully my garden is more productive each year because of it.

I also dug and set fence posts for one side of the garden. The old ones were rotted out and falling over from the last ten years. I set these ones in concrete so they last longer than a decade. In the next year or two I will put in posts for the rest of the garden.

I also put up a fence for the front of the property to discourage trespassers and any deer that come from the road. This combined with our driveway gate should prevent all but the desperate thieves from trespassing. Then they will have to deal with my dog and other layers of defense. Property security became more of a priority after a couple strangers knocked on my door at odd hours and my neighbor has had trail cams stolen.

Winter 2019 Projects on the Evergreen Homestead

Though we are not growing much other than winter crops this time of year, we are still staying plenty busy with projects.

We are fencing in the front of our property and wiring up an automated gate. This is to discourage trespassing as we have had questionable characters visit our house a couple times since we moved here. It also helps keep our dog out of the road. We are cementing treated 4″ fence posts and adding field fencing.

I have finished painting over half of our exterior of our house. Winter is an odd time to paint due to cold weather and rain, but as long as you take these into account, we still have plenty of paint friendly days around here.

I am filling in areas of the garden that need wood chips. Raking and using leaves and needles as mulch is perfect for this time of year. I planted winter wheat a couple months back and am watching this grow.

I have dozens of carrots due to a new method of germination I used. Beets, kale, and chard are coming up too. Chickens are molting, so we have next to no eggs this time of year. I setup heated waterers for them and plan to clean the henhouse out one of these days.

To be able to grow more in the wintertime, we are building a pit/sunken greenhouse (also known as a Walapini). This should need minimal or no heating due to the ground temperature being constant year round. We are building it 7′ x 25′ to have lots of room for tomatoes and potted, small fruit trees. We are also building a shop to store our animal feed and garden tools. We plan to add some solar panels to this once it is up. We will probably take another several months to a year to finish these projects.

Wondering what else you can do during the winter? Get some ideas here.

Grow Your Own Tea

Stevia Houseplant
Stevia Houseplant

Instead of buying old tea bags or loose leaf tea from a store, why not grow your own? With Stevia, you can even grow your own sweetener if you do not mind the unique flavor.

Peppermint

This is my favorite tea. Mint is a great crop to grow in containers as they send out root runners that can take over a garden otherwise. Mint grows and can be harvested a good part of the year depending upon the climate. In cooler climates, you can always dry your own loose leaf tea to still have access in the wintertime. 

Stevia

Though not a tea flavor in itself, this can be grown as your sweetener. Stevia can be propagated and can grow as an annual outside or brought inside in the winter for year round sweetener. Stevia is a sweetener that does not increase your glucose levels in your bloodstream, so this may be a good sugar alternative for those watching their sugar intake.

Blackberry or Raspberry Leaf

Though these do not have a lot of flavor, they are frequently used for medicinal purposes. Many pregnant moms have drunk this for Uterus health. Do your research and contact a doctor as always for any medicinal health advice. If you like the flavor, raspberries and blackberries are super easy to grow to the point of taking over fields if you let them.

Dandelion Root

Most places in America have Dandelions. Dandelions are perfectly edible. Why not use this weed instead of killing it? The leaves taste best in the springtime before hot sunshine. The roots can be used pulled up and dried at any point. This is a tea you are probably already growing.

Cinnamon

Cinnamon the spice is the bark of a tree. If you cannot grow Cinnamon itself in your climate, you can at least grow a small version inside and harvest a bit for consumption. Who does not enjoy the strong scent of cinnamon around Christmastime?

Pine Needles (Avoid certain pine species)

Do your research on which pine needles to avoid as a few can be toxic, but many enjoy a good pine needle tea. These grow year round in many areas.

Tea Leaves

You can grow many types of actual tea (Camellia sinensis) as houseplants as well if you prefer this type of tea.

Next time you enjoy a cup of tea, I hope it can be a cup of tea you have grown. Yes, you can grow 100% of your tea ingredients and have greater satisfaction in fresher ingredients.

How to Grow Tomatoes All Winter

Depending upon your climate, you probably can only grow tomatoes in the summer until your first frost. There are ways around this, however.

Tomatoes require around 8 hours of sunlight a day and do not do well in cold temperatures approaching freezing. If you can keep the tomatoes warm enough and give them enough light, they should continue producing well into winter. You can even use these methods to grow your tomatoes early and plant them or bring them outside to your garden as soon as your last frost is over for the year for a jump start on tomato gardening.

Greenhouse or Cold Frame

This is the method you are probably thinking of. You can either cold frame over the existing tomato plant in your garden using lumber and a window or clear plastic or build a full greenhouse. Even a cheap greenhouse is better than none. Dig down a few feet to gain ground temperature to cut down on or even avoid having to hear the greenhouse.

Houseplanting

If you do not have the space or resources for a greenhouse or cold frame, you can always transplant or plant tomatoes in pots or 5 gallon buckets and bring them inside. Either place them near a window if you get 8 hours of sunlight there or purchase an led growing light to supplement the sunlight. You can drill a few holes in the bottom of the bucket and place a tray underneath to help with drainage when watering. Put the light on a timer so all you have to do is water and occasional manual pollination via touching a qtip on each blossom.

Either of these methods should help you continue to get fresh tomatoes well into the winter. You can also use these methods to get a head start on your summer garden.