It’s too soon to plant, but not to plan

Happy new year, and let’s hope it is a green one, rain at the right times, no killing frost, warm summer.

Flowers this time of year are especially welcome, and you may have received an amaryllis bulb or hyacinths or paper whites; follow directions for getting the flowers. When flowering has ended, remove the flowering stalk and continue watering. If the leaves wither or yellow, let the bulb dry out, then plant it outside in the spring. It may be a few years before the bulb is recharged enough to flower again.

Right now, one camellia is blooming in my sunroom. They are more of a southern shrub but I have two potted. Different plants bloom through the winter, which is always nice. The lemon tree just got a light pruning; pruning seems to stimulate flowering, so I’m hoping for fragrant lemon flowers in a month or so.

This year, my sister and I sent each other yard art. I love yard art and buy most of mine at art fairs (supporting the arts). Lots of positive reasons, much is made from recycled metal, locally made, the imagination required to come up with the items is amazing, and you can talk to the artist. Some metal pieces are sealed or you can seal them, or you can let them rust for a different look.

I gave my sister a sealed copper ginkgo leaf on a swivel to hang and let the breezes move, and she gave me a snail. The snail is cute and I’m enjoying it inside now, will spray with sealant before putting it in the garden. I only put a couple of decorative items in an area, so each can be appreciated for the art that it is.

It is too early to be starting seeds, but it is not too early to plan. Looking at seed catalogues gives you ideas about what you might want to try this year. Make a garden plan – most plants should not be planted in the same space they grew last year; this is particularly true for the cabbage family (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts) and potatoes. One possible exception is the pea/bean family, which use soil bacteria in their root nodes to produce high protein seeds.

If you start plants from seed, and have seed packets on hand, look for the times required for germination and safe movement to the outside. Try to determine when seeds could be planted to get plants ready for the outdoors mid-May or early June. Gardeners are like farmers, we hope early planting, no frosts, will get us earlier crops.

If you have a lot of 2019 calendars, use one as a reminder for when to start different seeds. I used to try to get potatoes planted around St. Patrick’s Day (March 17), but some years a late frost will kill back early sprouts, so now its late March to mid-April. If I want tomato plants ready for the garden by mid-May, seeds need to be planted about two months before that to allow for germination, growth and hardening off.

Better stop dreaming about seed planting now, we still have winter ahead.

Susan Carty is a local gardener and a professor emerita of biology at Heidelberg University.

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