Gardening Note 1: Winter Protection
Taking precaution during the coldest periods of winter will help to keep the herb and vegetable garden productive and a source of outdoor pleasure on sunny days. Frost tolerant herbs such as Parsley, Oregano, Thyme, Marjoram, Coriander, Rocket and many more will still reward you with fresh flavour for your favourite dishes.
Clouds will help to insulate and slow the loss of the heat, but a cloudless, wind free night will afford no protection whatsoever. The temperature within the soil and in the plant's cells may even drop to a few degrees colder than the air.
As the temperature drops, the moisture in the air condenses into dew, which then freezes when the temperature reaches 0° C on the plant surfaces.
At 0°, damage to most plants may be minimal, and only affect a leaf or two. However, if the temperature drops far enough for the plant cells to freeze, non hardy plants will die.
Weather conditions can bring about a frost, even in supposedly frost free areas. It is important to heed the warning when your local forecaster announces 'a chance of frost, and take precautions to protect your garden. Take special care after new moon up to 1st quarter (Moon Gardening almanac).
Often times it is possible to extend your growing season by several weeks if you are able to keep your plants alive through a single early frost!
Covering your herb and vegetable garden with frost guard will not only prevent damage but ensure you will have stronger and healthier plants to harvest from as the spring season starts.
If your efforts were too late, or too little to protect your plants from a frost, resist the urge to cut off the damaged parts of the plants. To a certain extent, these dead leaves and stems will provide limited insulation from further frost damage. You will have to go back and re prune your plants in spring anyway.
Gardening Note 2: Calendula
What if you could have a natural medicine chest growing in your own garden, especially if it will help to keep you healthy during the challenging winter months? Look no further than the bright and cheery Calendula winter annual.
It must be one of the most unappreciated herbs around and so easy to grow. Enjoy their colour in the garden as well as the medicinal properties, a true tonic for the body. Harvest the open flowers, separate the petals from the stalk and add to boiled water to make a soothing tea.
Enjoy up to 3 cups of Calendula tea a day and you may benefit from its anti-inflammatory as well as spasmolytic effect, healing inflammation and small ulcers in the mouth and throat, to improve digestion and stimulate the production of bile, healing gastric ulcers and regulating menstrual disorders.
It is used in folk medicine to treat ulcers, hepatitis, swollen glands, menstrual problems, and pelvic inflammatory disease, which seems to be supported by the scientific results of this colorful herb.
Beneficial uses of Calendula
Gardening Note 3: Quality sleep keeps you healthy
Studies have shown that sleep deprivation can have a lasting impact on your health and contribute to everything from hypertension to depression and obesity.
During the sleeping period the brain and body are busy performing a number of restorative processes, especially strengthening the body’s immune system.
Improve the quality of your resting period with herbs such as lemon balm and chamomile, while at the same time also benefitting from the anti-microbial properties of these herbs to prevent illness during the winter period.
Gardening Note 4: Improve your soil
The biggest secret in successful gardening?
The soil condition. The better the soil, the better the root system and then you get the best foliage, flowers and fruit! Take the time now to get the soil prepared and you will reap the rewards during the coming growing season.
Consider the following benefits of adding organic matter:
- It serves as an excellent mulch for moderating soil temperatures, keeping weeds under control and the soil evenly moist,
- Fertilize and improve soil structure at the same time by incorporating organic matter, such as compost, fish meal or aged manure that also provides a wide range of nutrients,
- Most culinary herbs grow best in well-drained soil. Whether your soil is sandy, hard clay or somewhere in between, it can always be improved by the addition of organic matter, such as dried grass clippings, shredded leaves or compost.
- Raised beds help improve soil drainage and allow for ample additions of organic matter or quality commercial garden soil. Raised beds also reduce your workload by defining your planting areas so you only water, weed and fertilize your beds and not your paths.
"If I had eight hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend six sharpening my axe." ~ Abraham Lincoln