Got cabin fever? January is a good time to prepare for when we can finally get into the garden. (Mary Lowther photo)

Got cabin fever? January is a good time to prepare for when we can finally get into the garden. (Mary Lowther photo)

Mary Lowther column: Curing cabin fever with garden prep

How can we gardeners retain our mental health when there isn’t enough daylight to grow moss?

By Mary Lowther

I am less concerned with COVID than I am with cabin fever. How can we gardeners retain our mental health when the ground is frozen and there isn’t enough daylight to grow moss? What can we do after every room in the house has been swept, dusted and polished until we can perform surgery on any surface? One can only go to the grocery store so many times before the staff start thinking you’re homeless. To paraphrase Thomas Paine, these are the times that try men’s soles, and my feet are too cold to even contemplate working outdoors. Fortunately, we can plan and prepare for the eventual thaw.

If we want to get a head start for the day we can get into the garden, things will go more smoothly if we have all our ingredients assembled, just like cooking. This is the month to order seeds and make sure we have everything needed to make complete organic fertilizer.

With the compost heap lid frozen solid, the vegetable and fruit scraps destined for the bin have been piling up, and we need to find a different method. I am wondering if David will object if I bought a hot tub for it.

With seeds ordered and soil prepared it is time to look after equipment. I check my supplies like Reemay, stakes, tools and the seed starting shelves. I like the Reemay that Integrity Sales carries because it comes in long bolts wide enough to span a three foot bed once the plants start growing. In times past, several of us chipped in together to buy a bolt to divide amongst us, but last year I bought a whole bolt by myself that I expect to last my lifetime. It’s worth it to buy the best available because the narrower ones don’t do the job as well.

I use stakes for every variety of crop, so I need to make sure they’re available right at the start of gardening season. Ideally, gardening tools should have been cleaned up at the end of fall but this is a good time to double check that they’re up to scratch because I’ve used some of them this winter. I’ll wipe everything down on the seed table, check that the lights don’t need more bulbs and that the heating mats my brother-in-law gave me are still working and clean. Equipment like brushes, protective gear, fertilizing liquids like the vitamin B and fish emulsion will be checked so that I have enough of them. I like to water my seedlings with a dilution using these two liquids so they grow quickly, and as nutrient dense as possible.

In the meantime, I’m drying out bones and eggshells to use in March when I follow Nigel Palmer’s suggestions to dissolve minerals from them in apple cider vinegar, in his book Garden Amendments. Why March? Because that’s when the apple vinegar that I made following Palmer’s recipe will be ready. The next time I have apples I’ll save the cores and skins to make more.

Cabin fever has been cured! We can use this break from gardening to catch up on maintenance, try a few experiments and store pent up energies, preparing to burst onto the field once the weather cooperates.

For those readers (both of you) who haven’t got Solomon’s recipe for Complete Organic Fertilizer, here it is:

3 to 4 litres seedmeal

½ cup dolomite lime

1 cup agricultural lime

1 cup gypsum

1 litre soft rock phosphate or bonemeal

½ cup potassium sulfate

2 T. ferrous sulfate (iron)

1 ½ T. manganese sulfate

2 tsp. zinc sulfate

1 tsp. copper sulfate

2 tsp. borax

1 cup kelp meal

Mix it all up (wear a mask) and use at the rate of four litres per 100 square feet when preparing the bed.

Please contact with questions and suggestions since I need all the help I can get.