Garden Prep, Vol. 1: Late Winter

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Garden Prep, Vol. 1: Late Winter

Welcome, friends! This is the very first entry in a new series of garden prep posts: gardening and planting tips from me to you, flower musings, and I hope, a solid dose of inspiration to go out and dig your hands in the dirt. Come get in the weeds with me.

There’s a line I keep on hand that I think of often; I don’t know who or what the source is, but they are words to live by.

"Every day you can, you should plant something and harvest something." 

In February, I'm mostly letting my garden sleep. I like the winter interest of my perennials, so I'll wait until March or early April to do the pruning of my grasses and shrubs. Mostly, I'm taking comfort in the snow that I know is keeping the ground moist, even protecting it from harsh freezes. We've had a snowy January and February here in Colorado so far, so if we're lucky, I might see some crocus popping up next month and the tulips starting to form. 

If it's really been awhile since it's snowed, I will give thirstier plants a winter watering. I already planted my hardy bulbs last fall so now I'm just waiting for the warmer temperatures, and to see how everything made it through the winter. I’ll also fertilize my perennials and shrubs sometime in the early spring. Hot tip: I like to use YUM YUM mix that I buy from highcountrygardens.com, a great resource for plants and information for gardening in our climate. I learn so much just reading their website and looking at the plants they do and do not offer (no hydrangeas! no begonias!). 

I start my seeds indoors at the end of February and into the second week of March—for us, 6-8 weeks before the average last frost, usually right around Mother’s Day. I try to splurge on some decent seed starting soil first, as it makes a big difference in germination. I go through my old seeds and make notes of what I want to grow, toss old seeds that I realize haven't germinated in years, and buy a few new packs that I've been dreaming about. 

I don't love the tiny seed starter "cups"—or even egg cartons—because they dry out so quickly, sometimes in the space of one afternoon. It's so disappointing to have weeks of work lost in one hot day: I like to do my seedlings in disposable casserole pans from the grocery store (or that I've saved from takeout) because I find the larger space helps retain moisture better (do poke some holes in the bottom!) and I can build a little cellophane greenhouse over my babies with plastic wrap and plastic knives/sticks. 

I find that, at this stage, it helps to read instructions on seed packets very carefully and to LABEL everything. I always, always wish I had put more details in my labels; I usually just use popsicle sticks and a sharpie, because I need a lot of sticks if I'm going to put variety names and all of the information I actually want. I like to take notes about what I planted, what date, and make notes of the weather and what my plants are doing as I go, because I can never rely on my memory when I'm trying to do it better next season (note: we sell a great garden journal designed specifically for planning out the whole growing season, with inspirational ideas mixed throughout).

I don't try to grow most perennials from seed, since germination is so much more difficult; I also don't try to grow bulb flowers from seed. For example, I've never had luck with poppies from seed, but buying "bare roots" has done the trick. I also like to buy tomatoes (other than cherry tomatoes) and peppers at the garden center, as they're much more established than I can manage from my window sill. Dahlias are a bulb that are not cold hardy enough for Colorado winters, but if you dig them up and store them indoors in the winter, you can replant outside in the spring. 

See you next time, with tips and resources for a glorious spring.