$_35“The love of gardening is a seed once sown that never dies”-
Gertrude Jekyll

With the current warm temperatures for the end of January, we gardeners cannot help but start day dreaming about getting out there in our gardens. But, we do have about a month and a half  before we welcome spring on March 20th. So in the meantime we can get out in the yard and assess our gardens and start planning for spring. We also can start growing seeds indoors. A wonderful way to be gardening in winter. Some people become overwhelmed and think they need a greenhouse(on my list for this year) but all you need is some seeds, soil, water and a sunny window. It is wonderful to look through these amazing catalogs and dream of how your garden will look this summer. You can also wait until the threat of frost is over and sow them directly into your garden.

You can start seeds in almost any type of container, as long as it’s at least 2-3 ” deep and has some drainage holes. If you are the DIY type, you might want to grow seedlings in yogurt cups, milk cartons or paper cups. I prefer the convenience of trays that are made especially for seed starting. It’s easy to fill the trays, the watering system ensures consistent moisture and I can move them easily.

Choose potting soil that’s made for growing seedlings. Do not use soil from your garden or re-use potting soil from your houseplants. Start with a fresh, sterile mix that will ensure healthy, disease-free seedlings.

Before filling your containers, use a bucket or tub to moisten the planting mix. The goal is to get it moist but not sopping wet; crumbly, not gloppy. Fill the containers and pack the soil firmly to eliminate gaps. Check the seed packet to see how deep you should plant your seeds. Some of the small ones can be sprinkled right on the soil surface. Larger seeds will need to be buried. For insurance, I plant two seeds per cell (or pot). If both seeds germinate, I snip one and let the other grow. Moisten the newly planted seeds with a mister or a small watering can. To speed germination, cover the pots with plastic wrap or a plastic dome that fits over the seed-starting tray. This helps keep the seeds moist before they germinate. When you see the first signs of green, remove the cover. As the seedlings grow, use a mister or a small watering can to keep the soil moist but not soggy. Let the soil dry slightly between waterings.

Seedlings need a lot of light. If you’re growing in a window, choose a south-facing exposure. Rotate the pots regularly to keep plants from leaning into the light. If you’re growing under lights, adjust them so they’re just a few inches above the tops of the seedlings. Set the lights on a timer for 15 hours a day. Keep in mind that seedlings need darkness, too, so they can rest. As the seedlings grow taller, raise the lights.

About a week before you plan to set the seedlings into the garden, place them in a protected spot outdoors (partly shaded, out of the wind) for a few hours, bringing them in at night. Gradually, over the course of a week or 10 days, expose them to more and more sunshine and wind. A cold frame is a great place to harden off plants.

images-20You can start vegetables, herbs annuals and even perennials. Of course my favorite one to start and you can never have too many in the garden is the Zinnia. The Zinnia is the hardest working flower in the summer. It is easy to grow by seed or direct sow in the garden. There is a wide selection of colors, heights and ability to form new flower buds once you have picked them. When sowing them directly in the garden make sure you have rich, fertile soil, add some compost, animal manure or seaweed kelp before planting. Don’t over crowd seedlings together when planting, they fill in quickly. They need good air circulation to resist mildew and disease. Water regularly early in the morning, never at night.  Some of my favorites: Cut and come again, Queen Red Lime, State Fair, Envy, Tequila Lime, White wedding and Purple Prince. My advice-you can never have too many Zinnias in your garden, they attract butterflies and hummingbirds!

February 2nd-Ground Hog Day-According to Folklore, if it is cloudy when Punxsutawney Phil emerges from his burrow, spring will come early, if it is sunny and he sees his shadow and retreats back to his burrow, then it is 6 more weeks of winter. images-54I used to think that this little guy was cute, that all changed last year. And if he does the right thing and predicts the arrival of spring for us this year, then his relatives may have a chance in my backyard, if he doesn’t……there has been fair warning.

Upcoming events: Rhode Island Spring Flower and Garden Show- Rhode Island Convention center, February 18th-21st. Boston Flower and Garden Show-Seaport World Trade Center, March 16th-20th.

images-55For all of you thinking about raising backyard chickens, now is the time to really start doing your research. Local feed stores and backyard farmers will start advertising that “chicks have arrived”. Decide how many chickens you would like, how much room you have for them, what type of breeds(either for meat birds or laying hens) and what egg colors you would like. If you are starting a new flock, and have the space and want different varieties, you may want to consider mail ordering from a hatchery, Meyer Hatchery and McMurray Hatchery are 2 that I have ordered from before. Its so exciting when the post office calls and tells you “your livestock has arrived”. If you are on Facebook and on any homesteading sights(I am addicted!) you will see many posting of baby chicks available-all different breeds. I already have some orders in myself, hope the goats will like their new girls in the spring!



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