Mid-January in the Garden

Winter in Athens has been fairly mild so far. We’ve had frost on windshields many mornings, but only one when the mercury dropped below 25. I covered what I could and crossed my fingers. Everything survived — including plants I was not able to cover.

Aside from scattered blossoms, annual flowers have hunkered down and are focused on root development. Dense crowns have replaced scraggly stems. We’re not out of the woods yet, but more roots increase the likelihood of surviving a hard freeze.

Once scraggly annuals now have dense crowns

The veggies are doing great. I’ve been cutting spinach leaves for omelets, salads, and stir-fries. Heads have formed on the broccoli, and little beets and turnips are visible beneath the foliage. Peas and Brussels sprouts look good but aren’t producing yet.

The gro-light setup has been suspended for some routine maintenance in the kitchen. Moving everything to the cold frame was easier than finding another spot near an electric outlet. It’s early to move things outside, but warm enough to minimize the risk.

Weeks ago, I transplanted the first flat (lettuce and alyssum) to a window box in the cold frame. Leftovers went in the garden. It’s risky, but growing lettuce is easy and I have lots of seed. Given the forecast, they’ll be fine and, unlike the store-bought transplants I put out last fall, may make it to harvest.

Cold-hardy flowers (four varieties) fill the other flat. Though I’d usually wait until the seedlings had true leaves to move them to the cold frame, I figured they’d be okay. Much to my surprise, the seedlings look healthier and more robust.

Weeks beyond when they were supposed to come up, only a few of the delphinium sprouted indoors. Once up, they didn’t grow but just sat there. Another surprise: a few days in the cold frame sparked a growth spurt. Several more have sprouted too.

I shouldn’t have been surprised. Though more powerful than any I’ve had before, my gro-light doesn’t come close to natural sunlight.

The sun quickly heats up the cold frame. The difference between the low and high temperature inside on any given day typically exceeds 40 degrees. I open the top as needed to keep it from getting too hot inside.

All in all, my 2021 garden in mid-January is light years ahead of previous seasons. Lovely fall weather gave me a chance to plant stuff more than a month earlier than usual. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the weather will continue to cooperate.