By: Lisa Briggs | 2/11/2021
If you’ve already started some plants from seed, those baby seedlings may be growing like Jack’s beanstalks. Be sure that you check them every day and observe their progress. Water whenever the soil surface is dry to the touch and feed them every other week with a gentle starter fertilizer. We especially like Awaken by Safer and Fox Farm’s Big Bloom Liquid Plant Food. Pinch back any leggy growth and understand that this is a signal that your young plants need more light. Consider purchasing a lighting system designed for seedling trays if your plants are getting spindly. And try brushing your hand over the tops of the plants to simulate a gentle breeze. This will stimulate root growth and make for stronger stems.
There is a whole list of flowering annuals that you can start now from seed in anticipation of summer’s warmer days. A mix of zinnias, sweet peas and snapdragons would make a splendid cutting garden. Be sure to keep the soil warm and evenly moist until the seeds germinate. And as soon as they sprout, provide plenty of light and air circulation. Use a soil-less mix to avoid damping off disease. It is still too early to seed in tomatoes and most peppers as they’ll grow really fast and will get too large if started before April. But you can seed your hot peppers in flats or small pots as it takes some time for the fruit to develop those high Scoville heat units.
If you stored any geraniums or any other annual cuttings for the winter, it’s time to pot them. Use lightweight potting mix and a clean container. Cut the plants back to about 6 inches above the soil line and water thoroughly. Once the new buds pop, move them to a sunny window until it is warm enough to place them outside.
Tropical plants that you have stored in semi-dormancy, like elephant ears, mandevilla and fruiting figs, are ready to start growing, too. Sometimes they’ll sprout to let you know that their winter slumber is over. Bring the plants into a warm, sunny location and start watering very moderately. Don’t fertilize just yet. It’s better to wait about a month for growth to begin in earnest.
Try starting a few tender bulbs, like cannas, dahlias and begonias. These plants are great as they flower all summer. You could wait and plant them directly outdoors when the weather is more clement, but you will give your garden and containers a colorful jump if you start them now. The super cold temperatures have delayed our summer blooming bulb deliveries, but we’re monitoring the forecast and think that we can ask for shipping the week of the 22nd.
You can clean and divide any of those tender bulbs that you stored over the winter. Cut away mushy areas and let the freshly-cut spots air dry for a few days. Then pot the bulbs in clean containers filled with a well-draining potting mix.
And keep those amaryllis going and growing. Don’t make the common mistake of cutting the leaves off at the wrong time. When flowering is finished, remove only the flowering stem and begin to fertilize them every other week with a water-soluble fertilizer. Keep this up through the summer. This will build energy in the bulb for flowers, dare we say it, next Christmas.
And don’t forget one of our favorite signs of the warmer weather ahead. This year’s Garden and Landscape Expo is going virtual February 20th and 21st. If you have a little case of spring fever, log in to the website and pre-register. https://wigardenexpo.com/wp-login.php?action=register There is no cost and you’ll get notifications from exhibitors and presenters. And the Bruce Company is hosting a Pop-Up Garden Fair in our Greenhouse for some local vendors the following weekend. There is no charge for either vendors or attendees and we’ll be following COVID guidelines with limited numbers of folks in the space, distanced booths and required use of masks. Check our Facebook page for more info.