It’s January and for passionate vegetable gardeners in our temperate, maritime climate, the new planting year begins now. I asked several Lopez market and home gardeners to share their planting calendars: what they plant each month, what they start inside and transplant out and what they plant directly in the garden.
In their generous responses, they listed what they plant when and where and added the important advice that the calendar is only one piece of the planting puzzle, especially for these early months of January, February and March. While you can start seeds inside very soon, for those planted or transplanted outdoors “you have to determine as best you can what sort of weather seems to be settling in.” “Ultimately I end up planting when it ‘feels right,’ that is, what the season is looking like as to soil moisture, warmth, and my eagerness.”
So with weather and soil conditions in mind, and the recognition that gardening this time of year takes a little more effort and a gardener’s optimism, here’s a planting calendar summarizing local gardeners’ planting times for the first quarter of the year. Note that there’s a big window for planting many seeds and opportunities to plant more than once!
Mid January to Mid-February:
Start members of the onion family—green, sweet and keeper onions, leeks, and shallots—indoors from seed, with or without bottom heat and plan to transplant out in four to eight weeks. Or delay your onion planting until as late as April.
Start spinach, chards, and mustards indoors or outside in a cold frame though even a cold frame “can be a gamble if extreme winter weather follows.”
If you have a passion for tomatoes, peppers and eggplants, you can start them now. They’ll need pampering: warm indoor space, bottom heat, good light, and “you will need to transplant them to larger pots at least once and likely twice before it’s warm enough to plant them out.” “Transplant them sometime between April and May, first to a greenhouse and then outside under protection.” Or, you can wait as late as the end of March to start these warmth-loving plants and transplant them out closer to June.
Peas! While some gardeners direct seed if the soil is dry enough, many start peas indoors in cell packs. “While we do direct seed some a little later, and they generally catch up to those planted in cell packs, we always feel better knowing we have some started and ready to go!”
Lettuce! If you really like it, plant it now through August, a little at a time, roughly every three weeks. Start it indoors until April and outdoors through the summer. Check out seed catalogs for spring and summer varieties.
Broccoli, Cauliflower, Cabbages: If you have a good south-facing window or have a greenhouse, start your first plantings of these brassicas indoors in early and mid-February.
Start celery, celery root and fennel indoors and plant fava beans outdoors.
Potatoes! “I plant my potatoes early, as soon as I see the first dandelions. Often dandelions will come early but then the weather will turn cold again and we won’t see the flower for a period of time. I’ve found though, that as long as the potatoes are in their trench and covered with a little soil, they’ll be fine and will start sending up their greens when they’re ready.” “We plant spuds twice, once in February/March early weather permitting and then the main crop April to May.”
Hardy greens like spinach, arugula and mustards, radishes and daikon, pac choi, and turnip can be planted outdoors especially in raised beds with drier soil and protection like mulching or row covers if cold weather returns.
The first three months of the gardening year tempt some vegetable gardeners to push the season with indoor planting and outdoor protections. If you’re one of these gardeners, enjoy the challenges the next months bring. But if you’d rather not fuss with indoor planting and prefer the security of frost-free nights, stay tuned for next month’s column when the calendar will pick up with April.