January gives us all breather in the garden. A chance to assess what worked and what didn’t. It’s a month to plan, so grab a pencil and your calendar.
Put this date on your calendar first: The store reopens after inventory and a big reset on January 7th with seeds and houseplants galore. There are points to redeem through the end of the month if you’re a part of our rewards program. Don’t participate in our rewards program, but want to? Talk to a cashier. July is month two—pencil that in—for redeeming points as cash. If you’re doing a big landscape job this year or adding to your houseplant collection, sign up now and redeem those points in July for items that aren’t as fun to buy as plants (tools, fertilizers, pots, bird products—-okay, these are fun too).
Dates to Remember: Because we’ll forget if we don’t
Order your mulch now to be delivered and read in Feb or early March. Get this chore done before the perennials start showing.
Pencil in a February weekend for pruning deciduous trees and shrubs, including your fruit trees, berry bushes, and brambles. Here’s the how-to on pruning.
Flip the calendar over to March and jot down a day for fertilizing all the trees, shrubs, and perennial beds and sowing grass seed. Here’s your how-to on lawn care.
If you’re going to start a vegetable garden, here’s the pdf on when to plant what, which helps with prepping while sitting by the fire. This way, when spring gets closer, a few big items are scheduled, and the hibernating, procrastinating gardener will be ahead.
If you’re itching to plant something, try seeds indoors.
Starting Seeds Indoors: Because We’re Dying to Plant Anything
When can I start my seeds indoors? What about cool-season crops? Is it too soon, too late to start those? So go the questions of anxious gardeners who managed the holidays and are now ready to grow something–anything! Starting seeds indoors is one way for gardeners to fight that winter itch to plant, even when snow covers the ground.
The how-to on Starting Seeds
If you’re starting transplants indoors, start 6-8 weeks before the plant date for outdoors, and follow these few tips.
A window sill isn’t enough light for seedlings. They’ll become leggy and won’t thrive. Instead, try 12 hours of light from a grow light that provides the necessary brightness.
Use a potting mix that drains well, and keep it moist but not wet. If the soil stays too wet, there’s potential for a fungal disease called damping off, killing young transplants. Good air circulation and watering the seedlings from below, not above, will help.
Peat Pots are good for starting seeds since they can be planted directly into the soil when the time comes, but any container is okay. If reusing planting trays, be sure to sterilize first. If using pots that had summer annuals in them, be sure to use a fresh potting mix.
Most homes are warm enough for seeds to germinate, but a heat mat is beneficial. Heat mats go directly under the plant tray until germination starts. Also, remove the dome over the seedlings after germination.
If you don’t have room indoors to start seeds, we sell transplants (both organic and non-organic), so you can still get a jump start on your veggies. The frost date for Western North Carolina 2021 is April 15 with a ten-day standard deviation rate (meaning be prepared to cover your seedlings if a late spring frost shows up). Check here for outside planting dates.
If you have left-over seeds from too many years to count, consider doing a viability test on those, remembering that you’re testing germination rates, not vigor. The rule of thumb is that most seeds will last a couple of years, more or less. If you can’t see the date on the package, it’s probably time to toss them. If you’re saving this year’s seed, put seed packets in a Ziploc bag, zipped uptight, and store them in the freezer.
To test for viability: Dampen a couple of paper towels, place ten seeds from one left-over packet in-between the layers, and roll up. Place the damp paper towels in a plastic bag to keep moist but not airtight, and leave in a warm place for a few days. If three germinated, that’s a 30% germination rate. If seven germinated, then you’ve got a 70% germination rate. Obviously, you want a higher rate. The lower the rate, the more thickly you’ll need a new packet of seeds.
The good news? We have seeds, and everything needed to start your seedlings. The temptation is to buy more than you have space for or will eat. Instead: Choose the veggies you love and purchase enough for succession planting, and then experiment with a few new vegetables for fun. Oh, and don’t forget the flowers. We need lots of flowers, don’t we?
Houseplants: Because They’re Our Winter Love
Turn all that garden nurturing-love you’re missing toward your houseplants. Now is their time for a little TLC. Double-check for spider mites, mealybugs, and scale insects. If you catch problems early, it’s easy enough to take care of–a shower, insecticidal soap, or horticulture oil works. So does alcohol with a q-tip. But hold off on the fertilizer. Wait until early March, a bit closer to spring, to begin feeding your indoor plants. The same goes for transplanting. I’ve put that chore off for a few years, and this year, I have it on my calendar. Every houseplant I own gets a pot full of fresh soil and fertilizer! Someone remind me, please.
Stop by the store for a splurge on a few additions to the houseplants. Before you go, check out these tips on designing with houseplants, and read about the best low-light houseplants. For those of you with four-legged housemates, here’s the pet poison hotline with information on which plants are harmful to your pets.
Design and Review: Because Now is the Time Or it Won’t Happen
January is the month to review and dream a little. What worked last year, and what didn’t? What area of your yard needs some serious attention? Do you have a drainage issue? Should irrigation be considered, or hardscaping (the year you get that patio)? We have a landscape department that can help you with all of that. Do you have the onesie look happening and, this is the year to unify the garden with sweeps and masses (masses don’t have to be large scale, 3 of something counts)? The garden coaches can help with that. We have a retail installation program that does the digging for you, especially if you’re planting some big items or lots of items. Ask for a consultation as you do your walkabout.
Start a wish list of plants. Go for walks and check out the neighborhood. See something you like? Please take a picture and bring it to the store in spring. The staff loves to play name that plant! And chances are, we will have it. Contact us to find out how we can help.
Now, back to the fireplace with those seed catalogs.
Written by Cinthia Milner, garden coach, and blog writer.
BB Barns Garden Center serves all of Western North Carolina, upstate South Carolina, and Tennessee.