January: Monthly review

The first month of 2021 was not very memorable, nor filled with the optimism of past January’s. Like December, is was mostly gray and drab outdoors, so I left the Christmas tree up and the nutcrackers out the entire month to brighten the house, only putting them away on January 31st so we wouldn’t be susceptible to the bad luck associated with leaving any Christmas decor in a home by February 1st. Weather-wise it was slightly warmer than normal, but with much, much lower than average snow-fall which is worrying. The first 13 days were gray, then one day of sunshine and two partly sunny days, then another stretch of gray. In total, we had 7 sunny days, but at least each day was getting a bit longer as the month progressed.

The second “Wedding Dance” amaryllis

Happily, the amaryllis have continued to supply continual blooms indoors. A bulb has been planted every two weeks. Five were purchased new last fall with the tulip order, but most have been saved over the years, with the babies being separated and grown on to become adults. As you can see from the photo, the final day of January brought our largest snowfall for the winter, about 4″. Since I have no desire to go trudging out through the snow, and since nothing has really changed in the potager since last month, that’s the “official” photo for January!

To combat lethargy in January, some jugs were winter seeded with perennials that need cold stratification. Indoors, seeds were also planted in flats, partly to see if old seeds were still viable and partly just because I decided I was ready to make the commitment to their care! And, I realized that the lisianthus HAD to be planted if I wanted blooms this year.

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Lisianthus, seeded 1/7/21

It’s a good thing the lisianthus was seeded, because the photo above was just taken! Wow! These things are S-L-O-W!!! They germinated finally on 1/23 and were moved from the heat mat to the light stand. Eight days later they are still barely visible. They’d better be outstanding, or they’ll be cut from the list next year.

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The second flat was seeded 1/21/21

The second flat is (l to r) some really, really old dahlia seeds, which are apparently no longer viable; a perennial centurea for the Cutting Garden “The Bride”; Anchusa “Blue Angel” a perennial for the Addition Garden; Snapdragon “Snaptini Sunglow” for early containers; portulaca, a double yellow with orange edges that volunteered in a deck container last summer, so I saved the seed…and obviously sowed the “dust” way too thickly!!; cipollini “Bianca”, again old seed and it’s not germinating well, but that’s good to know now so I can start again with fresh seed; and lastly, Coleus “Wizard Gold”, which I loved last year and will add to the shady side of the Front Island to brighten that area, and under the elder, and in various containers for its beautiful golden foliage.

A third flat was seeded 1/28, but no photo taken, because nothing has germinated. It contains: Celery “Tango”, Verbena tenus. “Desert Jewels” (started earlier than last year because it’s slow, but worth the trouble) Snapdragon “Liberty Bronze,” my favorite for the potager’s interior and exterior borders; Scallion “Italian Red” for early salads and grilling; Salvia “Blue Bedder,” a favorite in the borders, also as a cut flower (and it dries pretty well) which often returns if we have a mild winter, but I always seed some in case not enough return; and Snapdragon “Madame Butterfly Bronze” for the Cutting Garden. That’s a total of 26 varieties seeded, but of course there are a few no-shows, as expected when using old seed. Those empty areas in the flats will be re-seeded soon.

Harvest expectations are not large in January, but any little bit is appreciated. This month only 1.25 lbs. were harvest, just enough for a salad to share with friends (although of course, it was simply dropped off. We ate it “together” on Zoom!) but it included kale, spinach, lettuce and parsley gathered from the potager as well as some ingredients from the garage (turnips, carrots, onion) and some dried cranberries and cheese with a maple syrup vinaigrette. Interestingly, it’s the same harvest weight as last year, which was totally spinach, so having a larger variety is an improvement. Carrots and leeks could have been harvested, but since there’s still a large bag of carrots in the fridge and two buckets of leeks in the garage, they will be saved till later.

So, that’s the review of January 2021. Not bad overall, and a bit of relief felt when D and my mother were able to get Covid vaccinations. Each day brings Spring a bit closer. My hope for an outdoor bloom in January was blanketed by snow, but possibly it may happen in February, which would also be a first!

Blessings on each of you. May February bring good things, sunshine, and happy thoughts!

Harvest totals


About carolee

A former professional herb and lavender grower, now just growing for joy in my new potager. When I'm not in the garden, I'm in the kitchen, writing, or traveling to great gardens.
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11 Responses to January: Monthly review

  1. Going Batty in Wales says:

    I can pick a salad from the garden occasionally – which is enough as I don’t eat a lot of salad when it is cold! There is plenty of perennial cabbage, kale and chard plus some roots. Yesterday felt positively spring like (today is back to cold and gray!) so soon things will start to happen in the garden.


  2. I love to read your blogs! When is too early to start flowers indoors with grow lights? Our last frost date is June 1st, and I’m new to flowers. My kids are anxious to start their seeds!


    • carolee says:

      Wow, June 1st is late. The timing for starting flowers really depends on the flower. If it’s a perennial, you could start them now, but be prepared to have to move them up into larger pots a couple of times before June. It’s too early to start annuals, unless it’s something extremely slow-growing like lisianthus, pansies or petunias. The first annuals I usually plant are snapdragons, because if properly hardened off, they can go out into the garden even if there is still a chance of frost. Better to have the kids wait a bit longer, than to have their baby seedlings struggle. Grow lights are good and I wouldn’t be without them to get a head start, but real sunshine is so much better.


      • Thank you! Middle of May is typically without frost, but never for certain. This is my first year with grow lights also. I’ve always done my tomatoes and peppers by the window and they were decently productive, but I’m hoping for a little better kick off with the lights. I appreciate your advice!


  3. Scott Dee says:

    Sounds like your garden is growing happily in winter! I don’t think I’ve ever weighed my little harvests (which are mostly thyme and mint, anyway). Do you aim for a certain amount of food to be ready at certain times, or do you plant as much as you can and see how much you get?
    Good luck in February!


    • carolee says:

      The goal varies with the crop and our needs. But, basically I try to grow a wide variety of crops we can consume at the moment over the longest period I can manage, just growing outdoors. I don’t heat the greenhouse in winter at all, so it’s not used. In addition to our daily use, enough food is canned or frozen to pretty much get us through the year in terms of veg, jams, and some fruits. I started weighing the harvests just for fun, and for my information, and because people kept asking me how much food I actually grew each year. Last year is was 1200 lbs. Not bad for a little potager!


  4. Lauren says:

    Love the amaryllis- do you recommend Wedding Dance? I spent money on a pink one this year- whose every stem broke under the weight of the flowers… was such a disappointment!


    • carolee says:

      Interesting. I’ve never had that happen before. Amaryllis stems are usually very strong, unless they’ve had to stretch too far to get enough light. Yes, I’ve enjoyed “Wedding Dance” if you like a white one (and I do) but I’m eager to see “Terra Cotta Star” which is more in my color scheme. I basically do about anything except pink, but that’s just me. Possibly because early on in my growing/selling career the demand was all for pinks, purples, white, and blue and I just got really tired of it. Plus outdoors, the brick on my house looks awful with pinks or reds. Try amaryllis again! They are definitely worth the tiny bit of effort, and the bulbs last for years if given a bit of care.


  5. Love it: “We ate it “together” on Zoom!” ha… sign of the times. I always enjoy your blog.


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