While Valparaiso and Chesterton, Indiana was recently hit with a “lake-effect” snow storm totaling 25 inches of fresh snow, we were in the cool greenhouses filling pots with soil (Metro Mix) in preparation of planting the first of our geraniums for the up-coming spring season. Most of our planting occurs in March but some of the larger items need a bit more time. Soon the New Guinea Impatiens and the Non-Stop Begonias, as well as all of the other blooming and vining “filler” plants will be planted and growing so that this spring you will be able to decorate and landscape your yards, maybe for the first time as a do-it-yourselfer. The rumors are that more people will be doing more flower and vegetable gardening than ever before as “staycations” will be taken as opposed to vacations. “Staycation” means staying home to fix up the “old homestead” by painting, landscaping and, of course, gardening.
Some early gardening steps of which to be aware of are to be ready for the warm weather times when we reach temperatures above 50 degrees. This is when you need to apply dormant oil spray to kill and protect you bare-leafed flowering bushes and trees from insects that have made a home on your plants. Do not wait until you start to see growth as by then, it is too late. Dormant oil is the most effective way to rid your plants of insects, fungi and diseases. As the snow and ice melt, get your plants protected from the damage that wind can cause…use Wilt-Prof or a similar product to lock in moisture on leafy shrubs and evergreens. Do clean-up pruning as I am sure we all have some, especially after December’s big ice storm.
If you are one who likes to start flowers and vegetables from seeds, remember that the biggest mistake people make is starting them too early. Seedlings do not grow well inside your house so it is important to start them as late as possible (usually early to mid-April) so that they can be taken outside on good weather days where they will develop at a slower, but healthy pace. Read your seed package to see the germination time and after germination, get those seedlings separated and individually potted into small pots or 6-packs. Figure 4 to 6 weeks for most plants, but again, read the package. Most seeds germinate warm then soon after transplanting, they need cool nights or they will grow too fast which causes very weak and spindly plants…especially if the light levels are low. Never fertilize seedlings until they are well established in their separate containers.
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