Fight the February blues with garden prep

As I dream of spring, I realize there is a lot to do. While learning is my No. 1 activity during the winter months, there are lots of things to be done to keep my gardening mind moving forward for a beautiful garden this spring — and even enjoy some extra green inside.

Here are some tips I use to keep me going in these “dog days of winter.”

ó Houseplants — If you received houseplants for Christmas and you want them to help keep you sane during these long days, place them in good light, away from drafts, and only water when soil is dry to the touch.

ó Check for insects on the houseplants. Mealy bugs, scale and spider mites are common. They all love dry air. Wiping leaves can help. For better control, wipe tables, ledges and plant stands with warm soapy water. Use insecticidal soap if needed.

ó Feed the birds — Cardinals and blackbirds will ground feed. Hopper feeders are good for a mixed blend. Blue jays and woodpeckers like all types of nuts. Suet attracts nuthatches and woodpeckers. Thistle for finches. I prefer not to feed corn as it attracts too many critters.

Grab your binoculars and a bird ID book or your phone. You will learn so much about our beautiful Ohio birds.

ó Catalogs — Consider this your favorite winter chore. Take notes. Check the codes to know zones, water requirements, height, etc. Use notes from last year’s growing season. Take all those things into account when ordering seeds. Think about new species you would like to try. Try to remember where you stored all those seeds you collected last fall. Some varieties are already sold out.

ó Perennials — Make a list of what needs to be divided or moved, colors to add, etc. Make a list of what you might have to share with others. Call garden friends to see if you do some plant trading.

ó Cutting Garden — This often starts with seeds for annuals. Think about the perennials you might want to add in your cutting garden, though. Mixing annuals and perennials not only gives you a longer bloom season, also gives you more colors and textures. Pollinators will flock to your cutting garden.

ó Starting seeds — It’s too early to do it now, but not too early to plan. If starting indoors, do you need to replace lights or heating mats? If you are new to indoor seed starting, research and gather / order needed supplies. Think about milk jug seeding.

I like this process, the idea of getting a head start appeals to me. I usually plant my milk jugs in mid-March.

ó Shrubs and trees — Take a walk around your property. Take notes. Anything need to be pruned? Don’t forget, if it blooms in the spring, wait to prune after it blooms.

ó Check for weeds — if you spot something green in the garden, there is a good chance it is a winter annual weed. Have the hoe ready to pop it out and drop some mulch over the area.

ó Force some bulbs. If you didn’t get them planted, try forcing.

ó Changing trees and shrubs — Watch for the swelling of the buds on the spring blooming shrubs. Maples will soon have a more reddish color to their buds. For spring bloomers like forsythia, cut some branches and bring inside for a nice display.

For ideas of things you can do for your garden during these last few weeks of winter, go to http://go.osu.edu/wintergardening.

McKinley is an Ohio State University Mahoning County Extension Master Gardener Volunteer.


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