Believe it or not: Gardening season around the corner

So here it is Sunday evening at elevation 396 feet. I spent the afternoon shaking almost two feet of wet, heavy snow off shrubs. I know, I should have been wearing a hair shirt. This activity felt like penance for loving challenging kinds of ornamental plants. 

But love them I do, and shake off the snow I will. The snow has turned to rain and the branches will probably break without my attention. Not on my watch. 

The spruce were shedding the accumulation with ease and I hope that if you are planning your landscape you will include these stalwarts that we are surrounded by. They work. They grow two feet a year. They offer privacy to your property.  They block the wind but also the sun, so think about that. Do make room for them. 

I strongly recommend using our excellent nurseries right here on the Lower Peninsula to buy strong, healthy starts that will almost guarantee success in your garden endeavors. They are all, each and every single one of them, excellent. We are very lucky gardeners indeed. 

I am now going to go where not all of you need follow: seed starting. That said, I am now ready to turn on the grow lights in the guest room and get seedlings started. The list is unexpectedly short. I only start those plants that need time to germinate or time to mature. More time than we have at latitude 59.5 north. 

Into individual cells filled with a moist sterile potting mix I will start four kinds of tomatoes. The selection this year includes, as usual: Brandywine, Japanese Black Trifele, Sungold and one that I haven’t had in many years — a yellow pear. I’m looking forward to each and every single bite. 

I also will plant four lettuce seeds, one in each cell. This will begin the cycle of planting four seeds every ten days now through the growing season.  This seems to supply us with plenty of salad makings, starting with harvesting in the greenhouse. 

Green globe artichoke will also be seeded into individual cells. I like to have two of these plants in the plot. They are huge, taking more then their share of room when you consider the amount of actual food they produce. But why not? They produce delicious ’chokes, far better than store bought and they are doable. Can’t beat that. 

Now comes the really easy part: broadcasting. This involves moist sterile potting mix that I sprinkle seed over, cover with a thin layer of more potting mix, and keep moist. This planting will include onions, shallots and leeks. That takes care of the vegetables that need more time than is fair. 

For flowers you will really need to get a jump on pansies. Leave the seed packets in the refrigerator for a week or so before you plant them, it aids in the germination. It seems like an unnecessary step but it works wonders. Considering the price of a packet of pansy seeds you want as many of them to make it as possible. 

 Read the seed packets, informing yourself of the needs of the plants, i.e. how long to germination, how long to maturation. This will give you the information you need to decide when to start a particular variety. 

I like to lightly cover the seed trays with plastic wrap. This will keep the surface from drying out and that really spells doom for germinating  seeds and the subsequent seedlings. Moist, not wet. A fine line. 

The lights are left on 24/7. As the seedlings appear the lights get moved up incrementally, too close and the tender leaves will get too dry, too far and the plant is reaching, resulting in a spindly, weak seedling that will struggle to survive once introduced to the realities of a Homer summer. Which is why you really need to consider buying your starts. 

On a completely different tack: Check out your house plants. They may be needing some attention. This would be a good time to take them to the bathtub and give them a good shower. Check leaves that have yellowed and need to be removed. Feed them something lovely and you will be rewarded with plants that will respond to our lengthening days. Excellent. 

It may seem unlikely but we are on the cusp of the gardening season. Carpe diem.

Note: Do not fear the snow. It will add much needed moisture to the overall environment. Plus it will protect the perennials that had broken dormancy and were on their way to greet spring. 

Homer Garden Club meets 2 p.m. Sunday at the Bidarka conference room. Teena Garay will present. Do attend these meetings. This is an excellent opportunity to meet gardeners who just may be your neighbors. Nothing like getting pertinent information. 

Rosemary Fitzpatrick is a longtime Homer gardener.