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Week of February 5, 2017

Gardening in February

Over winter, many gardeners find themselves thinking more about gardening than doing any gardening. For those people, think about starting a garden journal. A garden journal is the best way to record weather data, new plantings, date and appearance of pests and diseases, yields of vegetable and fruit crops, and plant development, that is, when individual plants come into bloom and how long those blooms last. At this time of year, journal entries can include any thoughts and ideas on new varieties to try or changes to be made in the home landscape. For those who already keep a journal, use this time to review past years’ entries to aid in planning this year’s gardening activities.

  • Refer to notes from last spring’s garden journal entries to plan this year’s vegetable garden. No journal?  Okay, you’ll have to rely on your memory to plan crop locations so that no crop is planted in the same spot as last year. Rotating crops each year is key to avoiding buildup of pest populations.
  • Don’t assume seed leftover from previous years will still sprout. Test leftover flower and vegetable seed by placing samples of 10 seeds from each packet on sheets of damp paper towel. Put the paper towels in a plastic storage back and check every few days to see if seeds have sprouted. If less than 50% of a sample sprout, you’d better buy fresh seed for this year’s garden.
  • Buy seed of some annuals you’ve not previously grown. Try gazania, gomphrena (globe amaranth), nierembergia, blue bedder salvia, santivalia (creeping zinnia) and torenia.
  • Back inside, be sure that spider plants get no more than eight hours of light each day if you want them to produce the runners on which plantlets (baby plants) form. To create more plants for you or for friends, cut off the plantlets when they reach a height of about two inches and short, stubby rootlets are visible. Immediately pot up each in any rich potting soil. No special treatment is needed to encourage further root development other than to keep the soil moist.
  • Capture rain water to use for watering tropical houseplants if your tap water is either chlorinated or fluoridated. Some houseplants, e.g., Dracaena, are sensitive to chlorine and fluorine. Let rain water, or melted snow, come to room temperature before applying to potted plants. An alternative is to fill an open container with the chlorinated or tap water and let stand overnight to allow the chemicals to dissipate.

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