Kachemak Gardener: Hold off on starts for now and focus on houseplants

The end of February is the usual time for me to get seeds started. Tomatoes, artichoke, onions, shallots and a little basil are the first to go. But not this year. I’m holding off for two weeks. Past experience tells me I have been starting too early for too many years. Time to back off. Let our excellent nurseries get a jump on the season, my greenhouse is too risky. Last year was almost catastrophic, the tomatoes were so ready to leave the lights in the guest room but the temperatures plunged, no way our two little space heaters could keep up with that. Thus, the plants began languishing in spite of being moved to larger pots two and three times. Not this year. I’m waiting.

So let’s turn our attention to houseplants. With the lengthening days our indoor plants are looking perky. This just might be an opportune time do some maintenance. They all love a good shower, either in the bathtub or at the kitchen sink. While there be sure to examine and clean their leaves. Remove anything that looks tatty, discolored or just plain tired.

I have, mostly, African violets. I made a rather serious mistake when I decided they needed repotting, they were too dry. Usually I’ll take them to the sink and give them a good soaking before I start tearing into them. Not this time. There was a window of opportunity and, despite their desiccated condition I forged ahead. They are suffering, therefore I am too. I love my violets. So, now to make up for my lack of planning, I’m overwatering them. Good grief. If they could run away they would.

Get a bag of fresh potting soil (I didn’t even do that) some extra pots and give your houseplants a new lease on life. They’ll add some sparkle to your interior.

Now here is the thought for you to entertain — how about adding something new to your collection. Susan has a 4-inch ceramic pot with truly adorable succulents thriving on her kitchen window sill. My neighbor has been gifted a terrarium. How about that? Neither she nor I know a thing about terrariums but we’re going to find out. Sounds like a science fair project.

My holiday cactus is still blooming, or maybe it’s blooming again I’m not sure. Whatever it’s doing it has never done before but I am determined to enjoy the scattering of blooms to the hilt for as long as they continue to grace the corner of the living room. If yours don’t want to bloom ever, move them. Be patient, once you give them the right conditions you will be rewarded.

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Let’s give some thought to what trees you might be considering planting. What got me thinking about this was the foggy conditions this afternoon that somehow managed to light up the Siberian larch that is situated right in our line of vision. There are those of you who consider one of these deciduous trees to look dead when they shed their very golden leaves in the fall. Their form is the same as the spruce so when the shed is complete, well, they DO look dead. But, like today, their bare branches are a gorgeous burnished gold that glow with enthusiasm.

They grow fast and make for an excellent tree climbing experience as our grands will attest to.

Any tree or shrub will need protection from the moose. This is a major drawback, but, really, if it isn’t one thing it’s another. A cage, although an inconvenience to you, will get the trees up and running until the moose can’t reach it to do enough damage.

Our fence has an electric wire running along the top. Of course, this year of intense moose food deprivation, it failed. So there was a moose, hanging over the fence (which should have been hot) devouring the arborvitae. But really, the snow load had already destroyed the symmetry of what was a thriving, lovely hedge. The moose was deterred, a new transformer installed and we’re still crossing our fingers there will be no more incursions. It’s one of those years. One nice thing about a good deep snow cover is that it’s hiding the black currants which moose deeply enjoy. So those of you without a fence just might get a generous harvest come summer.

Those of you who hold over your fuchsias and geraniums might want to take a look at them. They could need some water. But, again, think about keeping them dormant for as long as possible. I’m not ready to pull out the tuber begonias, I’ll let you know.

In the meantime people, stay away from seed catalogs. They can lead you astray. Stick to the seed racks, you’ll be less likely to succumb to lovely pictures of plants that just won’t appreciate our Far North growing conditions. Unless you intend on planting enough food for a third world nation, our excellent local nurseries will be ready and willing to affordably fill your needs. They will have strong healthy seedlings that give you a step in the right direction for a successful garden of flowers and vegetables.

Don’t be in a hurry for any of this, we have a long way to go, just be thinking and planning.

NOTE: February graces us with the full Snow Moon. Here’s what the Farmer’s Almanac has to say about it: “… known as the Snow Moon due to the typically heavy snowfall that occurs in February”. And there you have it.

Rosemary Fitzpatrick is a longtime Homer gardener and has been writing Kachemak Gardener since 1990.