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  • Writer's pictureB. Cooper

Tilling & Cultivating: January Farming Checklist

There's lots to do even in January when it's too cold to plant anything,

here's what I'm doing in this month for T&C!


When it comes to my tiny farm I split things into two categories: Preparation and Logistics. In December I give myself time to work on the logistics of the bakery and website in preparation for the new year, so January is basically that time for the farm side of things.


Getting ready for a new gardening season is split into two categories: Preparation & Logistics


Preparation


This is the 'tilling' side of getting ready for the new year. I have two main projects to build for the farm this year. This includes completely redoing all my raised garden beds and adding a lot more of them and finishing my new greenhouse so I can start all my seeds and potted plants in there.


Raised Beds:

My first two garden seasons in Tennessee I used reclaimed wood loft on my property for my garden beds, so they were already aged. Two years later they were practically rotting away before I could get my last harvest out of them.


While I am thankful for the free wood and the two somewhat cheaper growing seasons, it's time to upgrade. This year my family and I are building metal raised beds and more beds in general. However, they're such a pain to build. I'm thankful they'll last several times longer than wood, but six bolts per panel? Really? The beds we got were just amazon ones, since we wanted to get a lot of them without breaking the bank.



These new beds will actually be a bit taller than the old ones. When it comes to filling the beds I have two built already that's filling up with dead leaves, wood chips, and kitchen scraps. The plan is to let those sit and decompose into a compost a bit before spreading it out amongst the eight new beds for the upper gardens. After that I'll be using a mixture of layering and hügelkultur methods.


Hugelkultur: The practice of layering rotting logs and branches along the bottom of raised beds, before adding layers of organic matter on top. This includes dead leaves, grass clippings, kitchen scraps, and more. Topped off with top soil or compost.


My herbal tea herbs were grown in about two long beds worth of space, this year I'll be dedicating four beds to just herbs for tea. Herbs like mint, lemon balm, and some more grow in abundance all over the property so the beds will be focused on other herbs.


I'm hoping to start working on the wild side of my property this year as well. God willing, I'll be able to begin the first phase of the market garden. This is where I'll grow my first produce for sale outside of my herbs and teas!


Greenhouse:

This year I also have a new greenhouse. Our first attempt at it was a great place to start seeds and keep them away from my ducks, but there was very little ventilation or heat retention when it got cold. And one major windstorm took the plastic covering off. The new one may be sturdier than my house to be honest...



The reason I'm putting a lot of focus on the greenhouse is because my mom would love to grow her own citrus, and grow some spices that aren't suited for growth in my growing zone (Zone 7b). I'm not sure if any of that will be used for the business or just for my family's consumption, but I wanted to make that a possibility either way.


Both greenhouses were built by my dad. None of this would've happened at the speed it has without their help so I'm so so thankful.


Logistics


For the 'cultivating' side of things, I need to work on how everything is run on this property. The goal is to massively expand my herbal tea production, because I could never make enough to keep them on the shelves. I have a hefty goal for 2024, which is to multiply my herbal tea production by 10 times! In 2023 I sold 86 bags of teas, the goal for 2024 is to sell 5x that... I'm nervous even typing that. But I'm going to do my best!


In general, this month is going to be all about planning. January I'll be planning out my entire 2024 garden, expansions with date ranges for project completions. This will keep me on track even with the spontaneous decisions I'll undoubtedly make throughout the year.


Once I am done planning out the 2024 season, then I need to plan out my seed starting schedule, so everything has plenty of time to grow before I start harvesting ingredients for tea.


My dehydrators will probably be running nonstop as well as the family's new freeze dryer as herbal tea season comes.


I'm toying around with the idea of a monthly tea flavor, with a giftbox at the end of the year with all the flavors. Just an idea... maybe.


Why is planning important? I try to plan out where everything will go so I know how many seeds to start. This also helps when I place everything with companion plants rather than willy-nilly and hope for the best.


Basically I try to use all my brain power now, that way when life and work get busy I can go on autopilot. I'm not sure I recommend this way of operations, but it's how I work.

By planning out my seed starting schedule I can plan all my succession sows. For leafy greens I can get a few runs of that before the Tennessee summer heat comes out. For my hot weather veggies I can start those in the greenhouse long before the last frost and have transplants ready to go for those first 75 degree weeks. Once all my plans are written down all I'll have to do is look at the calendar and see what my to-do list is.



Are you hoping to grow a garden this year? If you are as impatient as I am, then we're probably counting down the days to warm gardening weather together. But there's still things you can do to prep your space! Whether you are working with an apartment balcony or several acres of space, there's plenty of work to do in the dead of winter while we're waiting on the sun and the heat. And it never hurts to start planning your space. I usually do this with sketches and lists, but there are plenty of ways to plan if something works better for you. Until next time!


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