Winter In Natural Mothers Garden


Sustainable Gardening: organic vegetable garden planner December and January

This winter you need to plan your sustainable garden for the year ahead

December and January are not months for outdoor planting in the UK or the northern zones of North America, so now is the time to plan.

  • Try out this great interactiveVegetable Garden Planner from Mother Earth News, it’s free for the first 30 days and $25 a year after that.
  • Browse seed catalogues like this one at Seed to Plate in the UK or Organic Seeds in the US, and start planning your planting schedule.
  • Plan your organic herb garden. You will first need to choose where you want to put your herb garden, ideally close to the kitchen for easy access, but a sunny sheltered position is paramount so this should take priority of proximity! If you have a have a heavy soil, you may decide to build a raised bed instead giving you total control over your soil and drainage. Use wood that has a natural resistance to rot like Larch if you can. Although railway sleepers are popular they have been treated with tar and creosote which is a known carcinogen, so are seriously not recommended!  Once you have decided on the growing area then measure it and draw it to scale. My favourite bit is making a list of the herbs I want to include, noting the differing spread rates and heights of each one and then placing them to scale on your diagram, remembering of course to place your herbs in clumps that  have the same soil condition and light requirements.
  • Give your onions a head start by sowing them now. Onions require a long growing season, so place them on a south facing window sill now for planting out in your vegetable garden in March.

Remember to

  • collect plastic soda bottles for spring cloches, when sawn off at the base they are an excellent slug deterrent.
  • place your seed potatoes in a cool, light frost-free area and allow them to sprout. This process is called chitting. Chitting trays can be made with old egg boxes, so you need to set these aside right away.  Do ensure you place the ‘red eye’ end of the tubers facing upwards.
  •  pull your parsnips and swedes out of the earth now, keep those you leave behind covered with straw to prevent frost damage.
  • rummage through your potato sacks to check that none are starting to rot. Remove any that are even slightly dubious, as it will spread quickly if left.

Sustainable gardening blog from nmn author Louise Moran

It’s January…outside, things are bare and it seems nothing is happening.  I didn’t grow any food last year, so my fallow garden is empty of everything and looks sad.  But while we wait for the spring to come and bring new blossoms and sprouting shoots, we prepare.  We look to the return of the growing season with hope and anticipation, and we make plans.  We choose what we will grow, and where.  And this weekend, the girls will help me with some serious prep.  We’ve been saving little cardboard trays that cakes come in, and toilet / kitchen roll inners.  Over the next few days, we will fill these with kitchen peelings, ground eggshell, shredded paper and other compostable matter.  Once they are nicely packed, we’ll put them in our mini greenhouse and water them regularly, and next month, when it’s time to get the seeds in, we’ll mix our rotted kitchen waste with some nice soil and maybe a bit of manure, and put our carrots in the long tubes and our peas in the trays.  It’s fast food for your plants!

Later in spring, the rotting cardboard will be transplanted directly into the earth and by the time we harvest even the peas, it will be long gone.  No plastic germination trays for us, no small pots that fall over and get stepped on and blown around all summer once empty.  Though my random bags of boxes all around the house raise the odd eyebrow when we have visitors…lol!

It’s a lovely way for kids who are aware of the grow-your-own cycle from seed to food to learn about the other half of this cycle, where the waste is reused to create nutrients for new plants…though it does beg the question ‘are our carrots cannibals?’!

What will you grow this year?

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About Author

Profile photo of Rebecca Watkins

Rebecca Watkins worked as a professional photo journalist and travelled the world with her husband John, before settling down as a stay at home mother to their three daughters. They have recently moved back from the French Alps to an old cottage in Devon, England. Rebecca's days are filled with visits to the beach, animated discussions and in the best moments, happiness and creativity in her family home of five. The other moments are filled with craziness and chaos and she loves those too.


  1. I’m growing my first fall/winter gdraen this year. I chose carrots (which I found carnival carrots in purple, yellow and orange , beets and butternut squash. I have other green vegetables, but those , of course, aren’t colorful. Ornamental kale may be a good choice to add color. I add it to soups and stir fries even though it’s ornamental . I have found that it attracts aphids, though. Other types of squash would be colorful, too: pumpkin, acorn squash, etc, if you have the room.

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