The Dutiful Homesteader: January

First chore: Write down your garden rotation plan

Sit down this month to do this chore. It’s the perfect month for it since most of the gardening you do happens indoors anyway (if you’re starting seeds) and let’s face it, it’s cold outside! The following example is a rotation plan that can serve as a starting point for your garden. Gardening this way is something I’ve learned to do just recently (well, just this last year) and it just makes sense. It works as a wonderful way to grow organically by warding off bugs, fighting disease and repairing the soil. So start with a plan and then rotate…

Year #1

Row 1 – Fallow with oats and/or annual ryegrass (add extra compost prior to planting)
Row 2 – Tomato family – eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, potatoes (first year composting only)
Row 3 – Onion family – garlic, onions, leeks, shallots (first year composting only)
Row 4 – Legumes – beans and peas, clover, vetch (no extra compost needed)
Row 5 – Cabbage family – broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, chinese cabbage, collards, cress, kale, kohlrabi, radishes, turnips (very light composting prior to planting)
Row 6 – Fallow with buckwheat and/or white clover (add extra compost prior to planting)
Row 7 – Lettuce and Beet family – artichokes, chicory, endive, lettuce, beets, spinach, Swiss chard (first year light composting only)
Row 8 – Legumes – beans and peas, clover, vetch (no extra compost needed)
Row 9 – Grass family – grains–corn, oats, rye, wheat (add extra compost prior to planting)
Row 10 – Tomato and/or Squash family – eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, cucumbers, melons, summer and winter squash, pumpkins, watermelon (light composting prior to planting)
Row 11 – Carrot family – carrots, celery, anise, coriander, dill, fennel, parsley (no extra compost needed)
Row 12 – Legumes (or) Onion family – beans and peas, clover, vetch (or) garlic, onions, leeks, shallots (no extra compost needed)

Year #2 (rows move over one space)

Row 1 – Tomato family – eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, potatoes (no extra compost needed)
Row 2 – Onion family – garlic, onions, leeks, shallots (no extra compost needed)
Row 3 – Legumes – beans and peas, clover, vetch (no extra compost needed)
Row 4 – Cabbage family – broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, chinese cabbage, collards, cress, kale, kohlrabi, radishes, turnips (very light composting prior to planting)
Row 5 – Fallow with buckwheat and/or white clover (add extra compost prior to planting)
Row 6 – Lettuce and Beet family – artichokes, chicory, endive, lettuce, beets, spinach, Swiss chard (no extra compost needed)
Row 7 – Legumes – beans and peas, clover, vetch (no extra compost needed)
Row 8 – Grass family – grains–corn, oats, rye, wheat (add extra compost prior to planting)
Row 9 – Tomato and/or Squash family – eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, cucumbers, melons, summer and winter squash, pumpkins, watermelon (light composting prior to planting)
Row 10 – Carrot family – carrots, celery, anise, coriander, dill, fennel, parsley (no extra compost needed)
Row 11 – Legumes (or) Onion family – beans and peas, clover, vetch (or) garlic, onions, leeks, shallots (no extra compost needed)
Row 12 – Fallow with oats and/or annual ryegrass (add extra compost prior to planting)

…and so on. The original post has more information about it – that’s here. Don’t leave out the compost and mulch… it’s been very, very good to me and I recommend this method to everyone.

Also, I am a very visual kind of person. I need to see charts and graphs and… colors. 🙂 So after I type it, I pin it, onto a cork board or some other big ol’ in your face, chart-of-sorts. I make it visually pleasing with colorful paper and pictures. It helps me stay organized because I have no choice but to focus on it each time I walk by. Then I know it’ll get done. This year I think I’ll try using flash cards with the plant names on them, then velcro them to the garden rows laid out on the chart… this will allow me to easily move each card one row over each year, or to mix it up!

Next chore: As you use up your canning goods, store water in the empty jars

This is a good idea for an emergency water supply – especially during the summertime when wells run dry. Save the lids from used jars and wash everything in the dishwasher, using the sanitizing cycle. (Or you can also sanitize the jars in the oven or a water bath.) If you’re on a well, boil the water prior to storing it. If not, chances are that your municipal water supply already has chlorine in it which means it will store for a very long period of time. There is no need to actually can the water, it should do just fine whether you take these extra steps or not. But check it every six months just in case, and be prepared to change it every January (yearly) if you don’t use it all up.

Next chore: Create a budget and plan out the year

Your time indoors is best spent doing the one thing that can quickly get out of hand and make your head spin. Budgeting your money for the year. If you do this then you won’t be shocked when it’s tax time, and you’ll realize what your spending habits are before it’s too late. And I suggest using a good program like Quicken (and Quickbooks if you run your own business). The key to not going crazy when using this kind of software? Set it up properly from the start. I have a subscription to a wonderful newsletter called Growing For Market and in their latest issue, there is an article titled “Better Bookkeeping” that talks about this very thing. Learn the program well, set it up properly and then the rest is very easy from year to year.

Next chore: Plant blackberry and raspberry bushes (while dormant)

If you don’t already have a bush and you always wanted to plant one, now’s the time to jump at the chance to do this chore. If it’s possible, do it on a sunny day. Sunny days are a fluke this time of year and you know it, so don’t hesitate! Forget the cold. Think ‘jam’. How great would it be to walk outside and pick a bowl full of berries for canning? Now think ‘free’. How high will you hold your head at the farmers market when you pass by a table of over-priced, teeny weeny baskets of last week’s berries? Let these thoughts motivate you!

Next chore: Clean out chicken coop litter

By my own experience, I’ve calculated that every six months is sufficient enough for this chore. And this is only if you decide to use sand like we do, otherwise, the schedule will be more often according to the type of litter you use. This is the first (and easier) cleaning of the year. The second is in July when you clean it from top to bottom. This time, all you have to do is shovel out the litter, sweep and replace it with new stuff. The addition to your compost will create a really nice well-draining soil to plant in. Win win! Do this the same day you plant your berry bushes.

Next chore: Pick a day to tidy up all gardens

Another one to do on your day outside. Though the real tidying happens in October, wild weather may create a need to re-clean. And weeds don’t seem to ever take a break. Make the most of the only good weather you’ll have for a long while. Weed all gardens (vegetable, flower), rake leaves and pick up wind-blown items.

Next chore: Stick to a house cleaning schedule

The entire cleaning schedule that I use breaks it down to a daily, weekly, monthly, biannual and annual schedules, so that housework doesn’t feel like I’m getting worked (over). I just took out the once-a-month portion and added it here, as well as the biannual schedule. Remember, you’re just trying to stay ahead, not be perfect.

Monthly: Clean out the microwave, oven and fridge. Wipe down the kitchen and bathroom cabinets. Wipe down towel racks, toilet paper holders, hooks and other fixtures. Dust the laundry area/room. Vacuum upholstered furniture. Dust behind TV. Wipe down doorknobs, light switches, windowsills and baseboards.

Biannually: This month and then again in July we’ll be cleaning all garbage pails. Clean the coffee maker, stove hood and washing machine, and then wipe down the dryer. Wash the curtains and/or wipe down the blinds. Dust/clean the forgotten things: Moldings, ceiling fans, lamp shades, etc. And finally, vacuum and flip your mattress(es).

Final chore: What to plant this month

Seeding in between storms isn’t easy. A simple covering helps them get established and stay warmer.

This planting schedule assumes you are in zone 8 or 9 and practice succession planting… so you may also see the same items listed on other months.

Asparagus, Bok choy/Pak Choi, Head and/or Leaf Lettuce, Mustard, Peas, White Potatoes and Radishes.

Start in pots: Broccoli, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Peppers and Tomatoes.

Resources

The Farmer Fred Rant
The Weekend Homesteader Series (amazon.com books)
Real Simple
Martha Stewart Living
Growing For Market
Quickbooks and Quicken