It’s a bit early, but if you’ve already started some seeds, 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 Neptune’s Harvest 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 are a few cool weather annuals that you can start now from seed in anticipation of mild early spring days. A mix of pansies and snapdragons would make a splendid spring container. 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. You can also start woody herbs, slow to germinate perennials and strawberries. For more specific info, watch our Friday videos on Facebook for weekly updates on what seeds you can be starting.
If you stored any geraniums for the winter, it’s time to re-pot them. Use lightweight potting mix and clean containers. 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. We expect delivery of our summer bulbs next week, just in time for Garden Expo! They’ll be available there first and back in the store on Monday, the 13th.
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 in, dare we say, next Christmas.
And don’t forget one of our favorite signs of the warmer weather ahead. This year’s PBS Wisconsin Garden and Landscape Expo will be live and in-person February 10th thru 12th. If you have a little case of spring fever, it’s a great way to spend a day or two. Advance tickets are available at the Garden Center. Follow the link for information on hours, vendors, seminars and more! https://wigardenexpo.com/ And if you are in attendance on Saturday morning, stop at Demo Stage A where our own Reid Maier and Lisa Briggs will present a Guide to Pollinator Awareness at 9:30.