For those of us in much of the country, it will be a few months before we can be out digging in the dirt. But that doesn’t mean all thoughts of gardening need to be put on hold, or that you can’t get a few chores done before spring arrives. Those living in warmer climates can even begin to plant and prune!
Here are just a few things that you can tackle at this time of year, regardless of where you live.
1) Seed Inventory
Seeds have a germination rate that decreases over time. If you have an excess of expired seed packages and are hesitant to toss them, there’s a simple test to determine if at least a portion of the seeds are still good. Place a few on a wet paper towel, cover with plastic or a glass dish and place in a warm location. Within a few days you should see at least a few seeds sprouting. If so, that tells you that although the whole package may not germinate, a portion of the seeds will. For instance, if you place 10 seeds on the towel and 5 sprout, you still have about a 50% germination rate for those remaining old seeds.
2) Organize your seeds
Now that you’ve determined what you have leftover, organize them in a shoe box or a storage container. If the packages are well worn, old pill bottles are ideal for storing seeds. Just make certain you label them clearly.
3) Clean and prep your tools
If you didn’t have a chance to do this in the fall, now’s a good time to clean tools and sharpen blades and add some oil for protection. Here’s a list of helpful hints on how to clean and protect all your garden tools.
Tired of loosing your trowel or other hand tools in the garden? Use this down time to dip the handles in bright yellow, orange or pink paint!
4) Read and dream a bit!
Garden catalogs are arriving in time for a bit of dreaming and planning. Looking for a new vegetable or annual to add to try this year? Garden catalogs are filled with seeds for new and unusual plants – far more than any retailer can carry. Not on any garden catalog mailing lists? Click here for a full list of the Direct Gardening Association’s members, including website links. Click here for more tips and advise on buying from mail order gardening catalogs.
5) Plan your vegetable garden
Spend some time thinking about what worked last year and what you’d want to do differently, talk with your family about new vegetables they might want to try this year, browse some companion planting books and then map out your space. Click here for garden planning ideas. If you’re new to vegetable gardening, learn your USDA zone before purchasing seeds, just to make certain they’ll grow in your area.
6) Plan a plant swap
Talk with your gardening friends and make a list of plants that you’d each like to swap this spring, maybe even hosting a “mud season” get together to work out swap details. Doing it in advance gives you a chance to plan changes or additions to your flowerbeds before heading to the garden center to buy plants that you may be able to get for free!
7) Start sowing!
Gardeners in warmer climates can direct sow seeds for carrots, turnips, radishes, peas, kale and other hardy greens. Those in colder climates can grow your own salad mix indoors, or depending on your zone, start some seeds indoors to be later transplanted to the garden later in the spring.
8) Prune soon for better results
In colder climates high bush blueberries, barberries, roses and many other shrubs are dormant. Without leaves, it’s much easier to see what you’re doing while pruning them. If you live in an area where plants don’t go fully dormant, January and February are good months to prune deciduous trees, vines, rose. Regardless of where you live, remember to hold off pruning any spring-blooming shrub (lilacs, forsythia, etc.) until after they’ve bloomed!
Ready to prune your roses? Watch the video below to see how to prune easy-care Flower Carpet roses in only a few minutes!