Jaunuary is always the coldest month of the year here in Vermont, making it also the most restful month of the year. This year many states are battling record colds they are not used to dealing with. I am noticing there have been many questions about survival of tender perennial plants on flower farming forums/groups.
Row cover is tedious but it’s the best plant saver anyone ever invented if you keep it from touching the plants. It can make the difference between saving or losing a crop.
Tips to using row cover are:
- layering if it’s very cold
- Use hoops or stakes to keep the row cover from touching the plants
- Leave it on until the plant has thawed if it does freeze
The reason to leave the cover on is that it slows the thaw of the plant, preventing ice inside the cell from puncturing the cell wall, which drains valuable fluids from the cell and leads to a loss of quality and microbial deterioration. So resist the urge to get that morning sunlight to hit those plants.
I have learned to mulch heavy with bark chip on plants I think may suffer from the freezing and thawing cycles in winter and early spring. Bark chip discourages mice and burrowing critters that love to eat our plants. Straw, leaves and grass clippings all make for cozy nesting material that they love to burrow in and chomp away at or plants. The bark chip won’t stop them entirely but it makes things much less inviting.
Though I do rest for most of January, there is still work to do:
- Moving snow away from the greenhouses with the tractor
- Ordering product for spring ( seeds, plant material, soil mixes, irrigation supplies & more).
- Wedding proposals and dialogue
- Organizing planting schedules & field maps for spring
- Dividing dahlia tubers for planting and selling
- Fixing broken tools
- Turn and monitor compost pile
During my time “off” I enjoy researching, mostly about flower farming. I like to read about new cut flower varieties, new biological pest controls. I look to Instagram to see what farm friends are doing in warmer states to become inspired. I try to spend time with friends, go to movies, read, go for walks. My new hobby is making kombucha. It’s been enjoyable experimenting with different fruits and herbs to produce fizz and appealing flavors.
In past years, I missed farming during the winter. Now there are 2 high tunnels on the farm we planted in ground, in March. We start growing again in February. The “off time” is really only six weeks, which is indoor focus time. During that time I can catch up with the season, reflecting on how productive we are for the other 10 months of the year. The power of SUN providing us with all that energy and motivation is amazing! It seems, just as I become used to the slower pace of winter, it’s time to start up again.
To get a 4-week lead time, I start growing indoors beginning of February. With Ranunculus, Anemones and cold loving seeds, indoors using LED lights. March first, the high tunnels are ready to plant in, its spring in there. I starting the heater in the small seedling growing greenhouse March first too, moving the seed starting in there. Then the days and list of to do’s get longer and longer.