Saturday, January 20, 2018

Winter Prep For Spring Flowers

February 28, 2012 by  
Filed under Blog

Getting Ready for Color

Last issue, we explored ways to bring flowers indoors to add color and cheer to our living spaces. Well, there is no better time than February to think about the outdoors … and begin making preparations to enjoy our plants and flowers in the spring, in their natural environment.

Depending upon the weather and planting season in your area, it may be time to ready your flower pots, boxes, beds and gardens for spring planting. If you haven’t quite thawed out yet, you can at least make your plans now for future action, and if you live in the drier, snow-free regions of the West, you can start your prep now.

Containers. If you do not have a garden, it is an easy thing to plant seeds or plants in pots on your patio, in small flower beds or in flower boxes. Clean up the outside of your pots to restore them to an attractive state. If they are faded or need some new life, consider painting them. Althoughsome people paint terra cotta pots, it isn’t recommended, as the soil and roots can “breathe” through the terra cotta clay. Don’t throw out that old soil–it is reusable (see Revitalize below). For you DIYers, flower boxes and window boxes are easily made with scrap lumber, and you can, naturally, find dozens of plans and kits on-line. You may also find them in home improvement stores, as well as pre-made wood and plastic flower boxes in nurseries and garden centers.  Also, don’t forget the beauty that hanging plants can add to your patio.

Revitalize your soil. If the soil in your garden or pots is dried out, treat or amend the soil by hydrating it well and mixing in compost or plant food. This will return those much-needed nutrients to the soil that may be absent. Those unopened bags of soil or potting mix, even if you’ve had them for months, may still be good, as long as the soil has remained as moist as when you purchased it. Soil doesn’t “expire,” but the nutrients can die off. One concern is whether or not the fertilizer in the soil mix is moldy. Take a good whiff of a newly opened bag, and if it smells bad (nastier than the “farm-fresh” scent of fertilizer), you don’t want to put it in a pot where it will continue its mold growth. It is best to put it in your compost pile or scatter it about your yard so that exposure to the air can kill the mold. If you don’t want it in your yard at all, throw it away, and it will eventually wind up in a landfill.

Gardens. If you do have a flower or vegetable garden, and have not maintained it throughout the winter, you will need to begin the weeding and tilling process to clean it up. You can improve the soil by adding organic matter, which should consist of one-third of your soil. This could be compost, grass clippings, shredded newspaper, leaves, hay, peat moss, to name a few. These provide a food source for soil fungi and bacteria. If you have sandy soil, large amounts of organic matter will help it hold nutrients and water. If your soil is heavy clay, organic matter will improve aeration and drainage, and allow for better root development. Spread a layer of 2 to 4 inches of the organic matter on top of your soil, and till it to a depth of 6 to 10 inches. Be careful not to turn or till your soil if it is too damp, as the turned soil will dry into clumps as hard as rocks. Wait until it is just slightly dry. In addition to the organic matter, add just a little bit of bone meal to your soil to add phosphorous. This will stimulate root growth and flower production.

If you like to plant from seed, go ahead and get your seedlings started inside your home, perhaps in your laundry room or in a kitchen or bathroom window. In another month, they will be ready to go into the ground, and you’ll be ahead of the game. Before you plant them, however, start to acclimatize them by putting them in your garage so they can begin to become accustomed to the weather change from the inside of your house to the outside. If you don’t have a garage, set them outside for an hour or two each day until the weather is warmer and it’s time to plant.

Mulching with shredded bark is very good for your garden and your potted plants. It will keep the soil moist and keep the weeds down, but if you don’t stir it around regularly, it can cause mold growth.

Get creative with your flower planting, mixing annuals and perennials and multiple colors. In addition to your flower beds, consider other areas of your yard, garden or patio that could benefit from a burst of color. Plant flowers at the base of your trees, in the ground, in pots or both. If you have bare patches of ground next to your house or next to a fence that could benefit from a splash of color, amend the soil and add a flowering plant, vine or flowers. How many times have you considered putting up a trellis in that corner or on that wall? Start shopping for one now, as well as the flowering vine you like so much, and when it is time to plant, get them both in the ground! Add personality and style by creating a rock border around a garden patch, or perhaps even set in a rock or flagstone pathway in just the right spot. If you want to attract hummingbirds, plant flowers that will entice them (bright colors and blooms that hang downward).

We have only four weeks left until the official start of spring, so you have time to do some research, make your plans, write out a list, do your shopping and get ready. As soon as it’s warm enough to plant in your area, get to it! The sooner you do, the longer you will be able to enjoy the color and beauty of your flowers.

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