By: Lisa Briggs | January 16th, 2020
What a wacky couple of weeks it’s been weather-wise! A week ago today, the high temperature was 49 degrees. Today, many of us didn’t see anything above 20 degrees. And let’s think about snow totals for a minute. Despite the season’s promising early kick-off, November and December accumulation totaled just over 10 ½ inches. Thank goodness for the inches that we got over the weekend! Gardeners may be scratching their heads and wondering how plants will cope. Cold temperatures, especially when combined with wind chills and low snow accumulation, are setting us up for winter damage on many of our evergreens. So far, it’s been a fairly mild winter, but there really isn’t much we can do about Mother Nature’s behavior, except to hope for the best.
The Garden Center is almost fully stocked with garden seeds for 2020 and it’s time to start seeds for annuals and vegetables that require a long germination period. This group includes things like leeks, petunias, and lisianthus. Make sure that you use a soil-less potting mix meant for seed starting as this will help to prevent the terror of all seed starting gardeners everywhere, the dreaded damping-off disease. And don’t forget that strong, consistent lighting is the key to successful seed growth. Consider using fluorescent grow lights to make your life easier and your seedlings healthier.
You can also start seeds for perennials like delphiniums and columbine. Sown now, they will more than likely bloom for you this first year. And take good care of any cuttings that you started last fall. Pinch them back to create stockier plants and check regularly for pest and disease problems. Again, grow lights will help produce more successful cuttings by keeping them vigorous.
Start planning your annual patio containers. Try to remember what worked last summer and what didn’t. Consider using some vegetable plants in combination with your foliage and flowers. It’s more fun than relying solely on flowering plants and many of these plants are decorative, as well as tasty. We like succulents combined with grasses. Their diverse forms and colors combined with hardiness, drought tolerance and ease of care are all compelling reasons to give them a try. You can easily winter succulents indoors if you wish or plant the hardy varieties in the garden at the end of summer.
Even if seeds are not your thing, and you purchase baby plants instead of starting them yourself, it’s not too early to begin planning for the spring. Any of those beautiful gardening magazines or seed catalogs will inspire you. Get a bit of relief from your spring fever at the Garden Expo held at the Alliant Energy Center on February 7th through 9th. It will be all hands on deck at the Bruce Company booth. Everything you ever wanted to know about indoor and outdoor gardening is available there, and you know how gardeners love to talk! Free seminars are presented every day, as well as workshops and demonstrations. It’s great to realize that we live in such a vibrant gardening community. Advance tickets are available at the Garden Center.