By: Lisa Briggs | 1/28/21
Even though the short-term forecast is calling for a couple very chilly nights, the 2020-21 winter has been a mild one. And it looks like there is another warming trend on the way. This is perfect weather for crossing a few mid-winter gardening chores off our lists. We hope that you’ll have a chance to get out and do a little pruning and clean-up. And now that Groundhog’s Day is almost upon us, the days are noticeably lengthening, 25 to 30 minutes more light every day. I can’t predict whether or not Jimmy will see his shadow on Tuesday, but do not despair. The Spring Equinox is a mere 51 days away.
The seed racks at the Garden Center are full of choices with so many distinct varieties of vegetables, herbs, flowering annuals and perennials that it makes us a little dizzy. This year looks a bit dicey for supply though, so get in to see us soon, as we are expecting limited supply and delayed delivery from several of our seed companies.
Once you’ve secured your seeds, all you really need are clean flats and seed-starting or germinating mix. Warming mats are a nice extra that will help speed things along. Your seeds will sprout faster with a bit of heat under the trays. A clear dome is also a handy piece of equipment. They really help to keep humidity high and moisture levels even. Once the seedlings have emerged, take the dome off so that air can circulate freely around them. Stagnant air can cause fungal diseases, which will kill your little plants quickly. There are two words to remember when watering, gentle and often. A spray bottle of room temperature water works great for wetting the seed-starting medium. It won’t cause the flood that may wash your seeds right out of the flat. Try to keep the soil slightly moist all the time.
You can start geraniums, lisianthus and pansies now. Slow veggies like hot peppers, artichokes, bulbing onions and leeks, and cool weather veg such as broccoli and other cruciferous types can also be planted. Many flowering perennials can be started as well. If you are re-using flats from previous years, be sure to clean them with a little bleach and hot water, and use sterile seed-starting soil mixes.
It’s also time to start some of the slower summer flowering bulbs like caladiums and elephant ears. The Garden Center is expecting them to arrive next week. Begonias, dahlias and the rest of the summer flowering bulbs are expected by mid-February. Many of these tend to sprout slowly, especially if your house is cool. Be careful with watering at this early stage. A good rule of thumb is to water thoroughly after potting, and then wait until you see some growth before watering again. Bulbs are water storage organs and can easily rot if kept too wet.
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. We’ll be following COVID guidelines with limited numbers of folks in the space, distanced booths and required use of masks. Stay tuned for more info!