Submitted by Candy Venning
February – that weird ‘in between time’ where we begin getting excited about starting seeds inside (too early), or suddenly want to dig a hole, until you actually go outside and come right back inside again!
However, there’s still plenty of fun garden related things to do- here are my suggestions:
1) Winter sowing is still an option for most native perennials and many self-seeding annuals like Cosmos or Nicotiana. What is it? Essentially, seeds go in a pot of soil and are left outside in the elements to go through the natural freeze thaw and spring sun/ natural warming that triggers germination. Some of the easiest native perennial plants to grow from seed are Swamp Milkweed (despite the name it’s a gorgeous plant) Black-eyed Susans and the lovely, hummingbird attracting ‘Aquilegia canadensis’ aka Wild Columbine.
2) Seed sorting; Lately I’ve started prioritizing the seeds I really want to get started or identifying and sorting ‘the probably expired by now’, ‘these seeds need cold stratifying’ (Winter sowing), ‘these seeds need to be direct sowed’ (aka don’t like being started in pots or indoors e.g. Sunflowers, peas, beans, etc.), and ‘these seeds I have enough of’ or can get more so I can package them up and donate to a Seed Library (Kirkendall Garden club has one, The Dundas Valley School of Art is about to have one)
Also, seeds are great since they store easily and can’t spread invasive species like the Jumping Worm (eggs can be in soil and are nearly impossible to find).
3) Cleaning, sharpening and or upgrading your garden tools. The ones I use constantly are Felco Pruning shears, any decent set of long-handled ratcheting pruners/loppers (for bigger branches). Don’t have these tools? Maybe it’s time to treat yourself!
4) Garden planning: Now is the time to focus on that weird bit of garden that just ‘doesn’t work’ and find a solution. Maybe it’s the plants themselves (overgrown/ thorny or just non-existent?) or perhaps a space that is neglected and unused. Time to analyze what you could plant and why it’s unused. If it’s overlooked by neighbours you might consider a table with a giant umbrella for privacy, even borrow one and see if it changes how you feel. The longer term solution would be something like a pergola – covered in vines or annual climbers like squash or Zucchini. If it’s a deeply shady spot under a tree, consider a lovely carpet of shredded mulch, lifting the tree branches (removing the lowest limbs) to allow better access and even add a hammock or put in place the clips, ropes and cleared space to allow a hammock to go up and down. Don’t forget to place a stump or two nearby as a side table for beverages, books and other devices. As a last resort, you could hire a garden designer to ‘solve your planning conundrums’ for you 😊
5) Garden Journal –I have a gorgeous, handmade, leather bound notebook in a dedicated location and it’s become a fabulous ally. It helps me track down plants I really want, all in one place vs on scattered notes all over the yard and house. I observe successes and, equally important to record for learning, failures. I write down my sources for certain seeds and tools I’ve bought or add them to the ‘wishlist’. Recording what’s in bloom at what time when you notice it in a friends’ garden can be a reminder to add those plants to your own. Getting rid of old garden magazines? I like to snip and paste the articles or photos that are relevant so I don’t feel the ‘loss’ of recycling the paper clutter. I find that having a designated book is becoming a real treasure trove of the garden information and ideas I deem important.