January in the Herb Garden

rosemary in snow

Most of the U.S. has been in a deep freeze for several days, and some states still are and will be for quite some time.

The benefits of snow:

Freshly fallen, uncompacted snow is full of trapped air. Because this air barely moves, heat transfer is greatly reduced, thus slowing heat-flow from the warmer ground to the colder air above. This makes snow an excellent insulator for herb gardens and landscapes, protecting natural areas against freezing temperatures and damaging winds. Snow also lessens extreme temperature fluctuations of the soil; if soil freezes too hard for an extended time, plants can die from lack of water.

Resist the urge to prune or break off damaged stems or limbs. Wait until late April to do any pruning. While the stems and limbs may look un-sightly, pruning at this time could cause further damage. The old saying “leave well enough alone” certainly applies here. The best you can hope for is that the herbs and ornamentals will recover and come back in the spring.

It’s never too late to mulch and apply finished compost. On warm days, add a few cups of compost, composted cow manure, bonemeal, blood meal, or other organic plant foods around the plants. Cover with pine bark, mulch, hay or straw. The snow and rain will take the foods down to the root area where the plants can use it.

Don’t harvest many leaves from herbs growing in the garden. A sprig or two of rosemary or thyme is okay to harvest, but don’t take too much off the plants.

Continue to water and don’t forget plants on the porch, up against the house or under sheltered areas.

This month is ideal for planning next year’s herb garden. Check out a few books from the library, or search for garden videos on Youtube.com. Order a few garden catalogs online as well.

Stay warm and cozy by the fire and enjoy this time of year, for soon spring will return and with it another year of gardening joys.

~ Meadow Walker

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