A Gardener's Tips for Curing the Winter Blues

Sue Bucher
Adams County Master Gardener

Traditionally winter, especially the months of January and February is the time when folks suffer from the "Winter Blues." The holidays are over, the beautiful tree and ornaments are packed away. When we look outside for beauty, Mother Nature has blanketed the earth with drifts of snow. Our feathered friends continue to provide color, so keep feeding them.

As an avid gardener, I enjoy these months. It is a time of planning, doing small in the house gardening projects, regrouping and studying for the coming growing season.

 A contractor cannot build without plans and a gardener should have a plan or idea of what they want to accomplish. Although each year I keep telling myself that what I have in my head, is what I want in the ground, it doesnít always go that way. I now realize that gardening is a never finished thing, it is a constant creative process.

When you start planning, a large wall calendar is essential to keep track of your plans. In my case, this is important so my husband can keep track of me. This time of year my mailbox is stuffed with seed and flower catalogs. If you do not receive catalogs, the Extension Office or local library is a great place to spend an afternoon looking through the many catalogs that are available. This activity will help to chase away old man winter.

When the snow begins to melt, go outside on a mild day and look around your garden and flower beds or the location where you would like to put one. I like to take a tablet and pen along to make notes: is there a perennial that needs to be moved, or possibly just divided? If you decide to start a new bed, now is a good time to start planning. Many of the plant catalogs have diagrams for designing beds and the number of plants you will need to purchase.

When making a new bed, start with a soil sample test. Kits are available at the Extension Office for a small fee. The soil test analysis will indicate whether the soil needs amendments.

Keep in mind when planning, how much sun or shade this bed will receive before you choose the plants. Catalogs will advise which plants do well in the shade and sun. For your vegetable garden, draw a diagram of the crops you want to plant and donít forget to rotate your crops. If you live in an apartment, containers are great for patios; have you ever seen potatoes grown in a 5-gallon bucket? It can be done.

ACTIVITIES FOR THE WINTER MONTHS:

  • It is a good time to clean and repair your garden tools. Check the rototiller, lawn mower and sharpen tools.
     
  • Transplant and maintain your houseplants. Divide some of your plants to start as gifts for upcoming holidays such as Easter and Motherís Day. Starting African violets from leaf cuttings is an easy skill to learn. Select a leaf of medium size, slide your finger down the leaf stem and push down at the base. The stem should break away from the parent plant. Leave the stem on the leaf, and dip the stem in rooting powder. Insert the stem at an angle into the soil mix. Place the leaf and pot in a plastic bag, blow in some air and tie it shut. Keep the bag in bright light but not direct sun. If you see mold or moisture in the bag, open it for a few hours to let the excess water evaporate. The stem will root in about a month. When the leaves are an inch long open the bag. In 6 to 8 weeks small leaves will form at the base of the leaf. When they get to be half the size of the mother leaf, carefully separate them from the mother leaf and repot the plants individually. The plants should blossom in six months, if given bright light, warm temperatures and fertilizer.
     
  • Build a bird feeder or purchase one. Watching birds in the winter is a great activity for the whole family. Buy an inexpensive bird identification book, which will make this activity even more fun. Try putting out different birdseed mixes to see whether different birds come to feed.
     
  • Sprout seeds for eating. They do not require light for germination and are very nutritious. You can buy alfalfa seeds at a health food store and they will sprout in a short period of time.
     
  • Now is the time to get a bargain on Amaryllis and Paper Whites. Buy a couple and start them at different times to have a continual bloom during the winter.
     
  • Consider purchasing or even building an "Indoor Grow Lab" that will allow you to start plants from seeds, propagate root cuttings, raise flowering foliage and vegetable plants, force plants to flower and experiment with how plants respond to light. Instructions for building a lab are available at the Extension Office or library, if you are handy with woodworking tools. The cost will probably be $100 - $150.
     
  • Visit a local nursery and drink in the beauty of what is growing and blooming.
     
  • Attend the York Flower Show being held at the York Fairgrounds in February .
     
  • The Philadelphia Flower show will be held the first full week of March. If you have not attended, you will be amazed at the transformation that takes place when the inside of the building looks like the outdoors in May or June.
     
  • Attend the Green Thumb Gardening Series presented by the Adams County Master Gardeners presented for 4 weeks in March. For further information and a brochure call the extension office.

Read other winter related gardening articles

Read other articles by Sue Bucher