January Toolshed: Tips for Garden Leaders

Wintertime Garden Gatherings       12-9-15-Pea-SunflowerShoots

As the green of our gardens finally get buried in the snow (or not!) many of us gardeners search for ways to stay connected to the growing we love and to the fellow gardeners we miss. Below are a few ideas for continuing to surround ourselves with green by growing, learning and gathering through the winter months.

  • Host an indoor planting party. In Vermont January’s a little early to start plants for your garden; however, it’s a great time to grow microgreens and herbs indoors. Organize a workshop or just a group of neighbors to start your seeds together. Growing Indoors: Microgreens typically take about 2-3 weeks to grow to a good size for harvest. Make sure you have about 4 hours daily of direct sunlight, or place a fluorescent bulb placed about 4 inches above the plants. Sow seeds every few days to a week for a continuous harvest through the winter. Herbs can take longer to grow, but some of the easier varieties to grow from seeds, like basil, chives, and cilantro, can also be enjoyed when young and tender. Click here for more tips on starting your own microgreens indoors.
  • Invite friends over for some garden gossip. Heat up garden vegetable soup from the freezer, clip some microgreens for fresh flavor, peruse seed catalogues, dream and gush about the season to come. If young ones (or young at heart) are in attendance set aside last year’s catalogues to be cut and glued into a colorful garden collage!
  • Organize a community Seed Swap. National Seed Swap Day is the last week in January every year, in 2016 on January 30. If you aren’t familiar with the concept, a “Seed Swap” is an opportunity for gardeners to meet and exchange their extra seeds (harvested or from packets) from the last season. Often featured are varieties that grow well in your area, personal favorites, heirlooms, and culturally significant crops. In some communities, seed swaps are annual events celebrating gardening, food, cultural heritage, and crop diversity.   This can be a great way to re-energize local gardeners and gardeners-to-be for the season to come!   For more info and links on how to start your own Seed Swap see this past January Toolshed Tip.
  • Register for the NOFA Vermont Winter Conference, February 13-15. Dig into the garden topic you’ve been wanting to learn more about, be inspired by work happening across the state, and commune with fellow garden leaders. This annual event for Vermont gardeners, farmers, and local food enthusiasts features 87 different workshops and endless opportunities to connect with others involved in food systems work. On Sunday, Feb. 14, at the conference VCGN is hosting our 5th annual Community & School Garden Track, a specialized series of workshops and networking events featuring dynamic garden leaders from across the state, specialists in the field, and VCGN staff. Click here for the workshop line-up and online registration.
  • Join a garden learning community. Online communities, garden clubs, and ongoing garden-related classes can all serve as great ways to stay connected to garden learning year-round. Local community centers and natural food stores often have free or low cost classes on cooking, preserving, and other garden-related topics. UVM’s Extension Master Gardener Course is one way to take your garden learning to the next level in the context of a supportive learning community. The 2016 course will be held February 2 – April 26. Applications are due by January 15, 2016. More info and registration at: https://www.uvm.edu/mastergardener/.