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Help Heat-Loving Vegetables

Weather forecasters often call this month “Junuary” because the PNW weather can be unpredictable. Longer days promote growth, but they often lack heat.

 

Your warmth-loving plants will get a head start if you use row covers, cloches and heat tunnels. These tools work by both trapping heat and blocking wind that can draw heat away.

 

https://pubs.extension.wsu.edu/how-to-install-a-floating-row-cover-home-garden-series

 

https://catalog.extension.oregonstate.edu/ec1627

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Photo used with permission

A floating row cover is simple to install and helps conserve heat while being permeable to water.

Continue Deadheading

Removing spent flowers satisfies the “neat and tidy” gardener, but doing so will also keep your annuals blooming longer through the season.

Consider Hanging Baskets

Make use of vertical space around your home. Hanging baskets are usually used for flowers, but cherry tomatoes are also a good choice, putting them at easy picking level and promoting quicker ripening.

 

Daily watering of hanging baskets is essential if you want to keep them looking nice. You can plant your own baskets (start early for best results), or you can get them in gardening nurseries. It’s possible your local gardening clubs will put them together as a fundraiser.

 

https://s3.wp.wsu.edu/uploads/sites/2088/2017/04/Container-Vegetable-Gardening_RS004-2010.pdf

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Photo used with permission

Hanging baskets add vertical interest.

Plant Late Bloomers and Next Set of Vegetables

You can still plant late-blooming flowers such as dahlias, gladiolus, and calla lilies. Plant multiple sets of vegetables (succession planting) to prolong your harvest season.

 

https://pubs.extension.wsu.edu/home-vegetable-gardening-in-washington-home-garden-series

Start Supplemental Watering

This month will most likely need supplemental watering to support your production garden and establish new plantings. Mulches (4-6") protect the soil from drying out as quickly and add to soil nutrients as they slowly break down. They have the added benefit of suppressing weeds and/or making them easy to pull.

 

Overhead watering facilitates disease development, wastes water through evaporation and is a poor use of sparse resources. Soaker hoses and drip irrigation are a much better way to provide supplemental water.

 

https://pubs.extension.wsu.edu/wsu-drought-advisory-visual-crop-moisture-stress-symptoms

Control Pests

This is the time to be on the lookout for pests. Look for misshaped, curled, and chewed leaves; check under leaves for aphids and examine your veggies to remove small caterpillars. Tent caterpillar nests can be seen in the top of trees. If you notice them soon enough, you can prune out the tip of a branch before they migrate. Pesticides do a poor job of penetrating their webbed nests.

 

Using row covers early can keep many pests away from cole crops such as broccoli, cabbage, kale, and Brussels sprouts. Aphids can be knocked off with a water spray. Encouraging predatory insects such as wasps, lady bugs, lacewings and praying mantises can be done if you don’t use insecticides.

 

If you do use insecticides, be sure to use one that is specific to the insect that you are absolutely certain is causing the problem and follow label directions exactly to minimize the effect on beneficial insects.

Photo used with permission

Aphids can quickly infest an entire tree, as they have on this prune tree.

Provide Structural Support for Vertical Gardens

If you have a vegetable garden or flowering vines, this is the time to provide structural support for tomatoes, peas, beans, and vining cucurbits before they get too tall.

 

Teepee structures can be made for pole beans and can also double as a summertime “fort” for children. They can be a simple pole and string all the way up to elaborate trellises.

 

Vertical gardens help airflow and as a result, reduce disease.

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Photo used with permission

Hardy kiwi vines, Actinidia arguta, supported by post and wire structure.

Control Hardscape Water Runoff with a Rain Garden

Create a rain garden to capture water runoff from hard surfaces. Not only will a rain garden enhance your yard, but it also creates a habitat for creatures, recharges our ground water, and reduces water runoff erosion. However, like anything else, it requires planning!

 

Considerations for building a rain garden include size and shape, volume of water, entry and exit for water, and creating the right substrate for water absorption. Plant choice can make or break your project.

 

https://extension.wsu.edu/raingarden/homeowner-resources/

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Photo used with permission

Rain gardens move water runoff through landscaped areas and reduce erosion.

Take Advantage of Companion Planting

There are plants that help other plants by drawing in pollinators or making it harder for bad insects to find their favorites. Some plants mask the smell that draws in detrimental insects. Some plants are good “trap” plants and should be planted as far away from your vegetable garden as possible. Mixing and matching in your garden can avoid monocultures that allow insect pests to thrive.

 

https://pubs.extension.wsu.edu/home-vegetable-gardening-in-washington-home-garden-series

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Photo used with permission

Chives, Allium schoenoprasum, are a popular companion plant that helps repel aphids.

Authored by Line Goulet, Island County Master Gardener
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