By Catherine Wachs
For those of us who can't wait for Spring (uh…everyone…?), we've compiled a garden checklist to help combat winter blues, indoors and out.
Now's a great time to assess your garden. Perhaps you want to add some plantings or move things around. Some people keep a notebook or take photos during the growing season. These are really helpful when staring out at your snowy white canvas.
- Order seed starting kits, vegetable and flower seeds from catalogs, if you like starting from scratch.
- Start growing seeds. Some helpful tips here.
- Peruse magazines for gardens that you like, See how you can incorporate some of the ideas into your own property.
You may be tiring of the snow cover that's been hanging around since Christmas, but the snow is actually a protective, frosty blanket, insulating the plants below. During winter's home stretch, we may get days that swing between warm(ish) and arctic. That will be the time to check on your newer plantings, making sure the warming and re-freezing has not heaved them above the soil line. If you see that's starting to happen, try to push them back in and cover root zone with extra mulch.
- Prune away storm-damaged branches, which can tear the bark off shrubs and trees.
- After a heavy snow, take a broom and brush off the shrubs and tree branches that are bent under the snow's weight.
- Take cuttings of forsythia, pussy willows, cherries for forcing indoors. Late February, early March is the time to prune most shrubs and trees, before they start to leaf out.
Sun-loving houseplants are probably looking a little sad right now. Shorter days=sadder plants (and people!). Make sure they are in a southern-facing window.
- Houseplants grow more slowly during winter, so increase the time between waterings. The single biggest killer of houseplants is overwatering.
- Clean the large, smooth-leaved houseplants with a damp, soft cloth. Or give them a shower. They are probably a bit dusty by now, which interferes with photosynthesis.
- Inspect for insect pests. Browning leaves are a good indication you have spider mites. Look for fine spider webbing between the leaves or between the stem and leaves. The mites are easily killed by spraying them with a homemade soap solution. Simply add a teaspoon of dish liquid detergent to a 12 or 16 ounce spray bottle filled with water. Shake, then spray. The soap smothers their soft bodies. You may have to apply two or three times, whenever you see the webbing again.
- It's a good time to repot plants, especially if it's been more than a few years since the last transplating. Plants do best in terra-cotta pots because the clay is porous, which allows for water and air exchange. If your old clay pots have a white, powdery mineral deposit on the outside, you can clean them by soaking the pots overnight in a solution of 1 gallon of water, 1 cup vinegar and 1 cup bleach. Or, remove as much as you can with a wire brush and then apply linseed oil. This will make the mineral deposits invisible.
- Go over your gardening contracts carefully. Many companies apply pesticides and herbicides. They are required to supply you with a materials data safety sheet for each product they apply. One note from this organic gardener: data sheets only cover the labeled, "active" ingredients. Ninety percent of most products are "inert" ingredients. The composition of inert ingredients are considered "proprietary information" and do not have to be disclosed. Many of these "inerts" are more dangerous than the labeled ingredients. Of course, you can always hire a landscape company that practices organic controls. Keeping your property in a natural balance is the best way to ensure a healthy environment.