Jarrod E. Stephens
The Ashland Beacon
When most folks think about January in Kentucky, frosty mornings and a barren landscape likely cross their mind. For a farmer, January may not be a time to tend to plants, but it is a great time to set the upcoming growing season in motion. Sure, it will be months before the first plants are put into the garden, but getting a head start on the season is possible if you have a January to-do list.
First and foremost, if you have motorized garden equipment, be sure to winterize each one. Ideally this should be checked in late fall but now’s the time to check if you have not done so already. Putting fuel stabilizer in the gas tanks will ensure that the fuel stays fresh and you’ll not have problems starting in the spring. Make sure that all tractors have the correct mixture of antifreeze in it to avoid costly repairs.
Considering the fact that garden seed became quite scarce last spring and summer, now is a perfect time to consider how much seed you’ll need to begin your search for suppliers. Local Southern States stores will begin getting their seed in the coming weeks, but you can peruse the Southern States website https://www.southernstates.com to look at the varieties of seed that they offer. Each season I tend to try at least one new vegetable variety in our garden just to diversify what we raise for the market and personal use. Bowling Feed and Hardware and Kee’s Farm Service in Grayson both carry a full line of Southern States seeds and will soon have full-color seed catalogs available in their stores. You can call the stores for seed prices and availability.
Other items that became quite scarce this past season, canning supplies, have made recent returns to store shelves. With the decreased demand during the winter months for such supplies as jars, lids, rings and even canners can be easily found. Wintertime is also a good time to order replacement parts such as rubbers and gaskets for your canner while demand and prices are down. Waiting until summer to make the replacements can lead to paying higher prices and limited availability.
Since January does offer up many cold days that are well spent reading, most popular seed and nursery companies offer free catalogs. Stark Brothers www.starkbros.com/ has been the go-to for many farmers to provide a full assortment fruit trees and berry plants. When searching for trees and plants it’s important to note that we are considered growing zone 6 and many companies list the zones in which particular plants thrive. Other notable seed companies that will send free catalogs include: Burpee https://www.burpee.com/catalogrequest and Harris Seeds https://www.harrisseeds.com/collections/catalogs. Of course, you can also view each company’s offerings on their website if you don’t want a physical copy of the catalog.
January is also a great time to take a soil sample of your garden plots to get a clear picture of your garden’s growing potential. Each county extension office can provide you with guidelines and information about how to take a good soil sample and how to have it analyzed. Due to current restrictions and protocols, it may take more time than usual to get your results, so the earlier that you can get the samples submitted the more likely you’ll have time to make the necessary amendments to your soil before the growing season begins. Following the guidelines for strengthening your soil will help it reach its greatest yields. Remember that your soil provides for you each season and it’s up to you to keep it healthy.
Sure, it may just be January, but farm work doesn’t wait for nice weather. Take advantage of the barren months to complete your winter checklist and get a head start on this year’s crops.