Ron Kujawski | Garden Journal; It's spring! Time to start gardening chores
After a relatively mild February, I had hopes we'd have an early start to the gardening season, much as we did last year.
However, with the deep snow this past week, many outdoor activities have been curtailed.
Yet, there are some outdoor gardening undertakings upon which we may expend some of those juices:
- Put on your boots and trudge through the snow to survey trees and shrubs in the landscape for storm damage.
Make note of those broken limbs which are within reach from the ground and can be pruned by you. The pruning of large limbs high into trees should be left to professionals.
Tree work can be dangerous. Never try to prune from a ladder; it's too easy to lose your balance and break limbs — yours, not the tree's.
If running a chainsaw, never raise it above your head, as there is always the risk of a kickback.
- Use sharp shears to snip off some twigs from flowering deciduous trees and shrubs for forcing into bloom indoors.
It's best to do this on a day when temperatures are above freezing, since the twigs and your limbs are more pliable.
Select twigs which have a large number of flower buds. Typically, flower buds are larger and round compared to leaf buds.
After bringing the cut stems indoors, place them in the sink or a tub filled with warm water (bath water temperature). With the stems below water, snip an inch off the base of each and immediately place the stems in vases of warm water.
To hasten flowering, place vases in a warm room with temperatures of 65 to 70 degrees. Water in the vases should be changed every few days to prevent bacterial contamination which blocks water uptake by the cut stems.
The closer the shoots are to their normal blooming time, the sooner the flower buds will open.
Some of the plants which force easily are forsythia, crabapple, Japanese flowering quince, flowering cherry, redbud, pussy willow and lilac.
However, don't be afraid to try other species.
It can be fun to experiment and see which force readily.
If forcing flowering woody plants indoors doesn't get your juices flowing, snip off a few twigs from vernal witch hazel, which are in bloom now.
If you sense your juices beginning to freeze, move indoors and have fun with these tasks:
- Sow seeds of culinary herbs, the ones you are most likely to use in your favored cuisine.
These can be grown in pots on sunny south-facing windowsills and supply you with fresh seasonings well before you are likely to get any from herbs planted outdoors later in spring.
With herbs such as cilantro, make several sowings at two-week intervals to have a steady supply of leaves.
- Start seeds of hardy annuals and vegetables indoors.
These are the ones that can be transplanted outdoors in mid- to late April, after hardening, since they can withstand frosts. Among the hardiest annuals are alyssum, bachelor's button, dianthus, dusty miller, pansies, snapdragons and viola.
Less hardy, but tolerant of light frost, are calendula, nicotiana, and petunia. Frost-tolerant vegetables to start now include kale, lettuce, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, celeriac and celery.
- Sort through onions that were stored in the basement last fall or which you purchased this winter at the grocers; pick out those that have sprouted.
Though you may be tempted to discard these, don't.
Pot up the sprouting onions and grow them to use as a source of green onions.
If the juices are still flowing after completing those tasks, see your doctor.