Middleton Garden Center Hours: OPEN MON THRU SAT 10AM TO 5PM / SUN 11AM TO 4PM

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Even though the short-term forecast is calling for a couple of snowy days, so far the 2022-23 winter has been fairly uneventful.  Some snow, a short polar vortex and rain. So much rain! We do hope that Mother Nature will provide a few chances to get out and do a little pruning and clean-up before the end of the month. Groundhog’s Day is a couple of weeks away and that’s when I notice that the days are lengthening faster, with 25 to 30 minutes more light every 24 hours. I can’t predict whether or not Jimmy will see his shadow on this year, but do not despair. And the Spring Equinox is a mere 60 days away!

For the second year in a row, we experienced one of the weirder botanical events – the early appearance of blossoms on normally early-spring blooming shrubs, most notably on lilacs, azaleas and magnolias. That very cool weather in mid-November followed by the warm temps in early December provided just enough chill period to set dormancy on those flower buds. The following warmer days broke that dormancy. Flowering for the coming spring may be affected, but in the long term, your trees and shrubs will be just fine.

The Garden Center is fully stocked with garden seeds for 2023 and it’s time to start sowing annuals and perennials that require a long germination period. It’s too early to start any veggies or herbs yet, but it’s an awesome time to begin prepping equipment. Make sure that you have plenty of 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. Make sure that your seeding tray have been thoroughly cleaned, or that you have enough new ones. And don’t forget that bright and consistent lighting is the key to successful seed starting. Consider using fluorescent grow lights to make your life easier and your seedlings healthier. The Garden Center has lots of options and we’d be delighted to help you make an appropriate choice.

You can start seeds for native perennials. We have a great selection from Prairie Moon Nursery out of Minnesota. Sown now, they may be more likely to 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. Look for plants with diverse forms, colors and textures.  Form combined with functions like hardiness, drought tolerance and ease of care make for compelling plant combinations!

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 Wisconsin Garden & Landscape Expo held at the Alliant Energy Center February 10th thru the 12th. 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, including a discussion of pollinator insects and how to attract them presented by our own Reid Maier and Lisa Briggs at 9:30 on Saturday morning. There are lots of workshops and demonstrations, too. It’s great to realize that we live in such a vibrant gardening community. Advance tickets are now available at the Garden Center, cash or checks only.