This month is a good time to take stock of any seeds youíve saved
from previous seasons, perhaps even collected from your own
flowers. Keep in mind that many new flowers are hybrids, which
donít come ďtrueĒ from their seeds. They are produced by crossing
specific parents, perhaps ones only the seed companies know or
have. Other flowers are grown from cuttings, rather than from
Do a germination test on any stored seeds to see how viable they
are. Place 10 or 20 seeds between two sheets of moist paper towel
and tuck them into a loosely tied plastic bag. Place in a warm
area, and check every few days. If germination is less than 80
percent, or really slow, consider purchasing new seeds of that
crop. Otherwise, just sow many more this spring so youíll end up
with enough plants.
Potatoes, onions, carrots, turnips, and other root crops that you
have stored in your basement or root cellar should be checked
regularly for signs of decay. Any vegetables that show any rotting
should be removed and any good parts eaten (if possible)
immediately, so they don't spread the disease to other vegetables.
If youíve stored tender summer bulbs, check them periodically.
Gladiolus corms are usually pretty easy to store as long as they
donít freeze. Dahlia tubers, on the other hand, can die if they
get too dry or stay too wet. If they are stored in a medium such
as sawdust, compost, or similar, and it feels damp and tubers are
getting mushy, replace them at once into a drier mix and cut off
rotten portions. If they are starting to shrivel, slightly dampen
the storage medium.
If you havenít grown your own fruits, consider adding some this year. A good resource is The Fruit Gardenerís Bible by Lewis Hill and Leonard Perry. While it is easy to visit local growers to pick and buy quantities of fruits in summer and fall, such as for freezing or canning or making jams, itís fun to grow some of your own. You often can grow fruits you wonít find for sale, youíll have some for ready picking for immediate fresh eating, and youíll know what chemicals, if any, have been used on them. When choosing fruits, pay attention to the space theyíll need, hardiness, and whether more than one selection is needed for cross-pollination.
When in flower, moth orchids (Phalaenopsis) need consistent temperatures of above 60 degrees at night and above 70 during the day. In New England, a south window in winter is not too much light, whereas it would be too much in summer. Fertilize with a dilute liquid orchid fertilizer (high phosphorous, low nitrogen). Let the soil dry out somewhat between watering, but donít let it dry out completely. The flowers can be damaged by gas from a stove, cigarette smoke, and other chemicals in the air. If buds drop before opening, raise the humidity with a room humidifier, or by grouping plants together on top of pebbles in a tray with water up to the bottom of the pebbles.
Other activities for this month include keeping bird feeders and
heated outdoor bird baths clean, moving clivia from cool dormant
storage back into warmth and resuming watering, gently removing
snow from shrubs, and using plant-safe deicing products on walks.
Return to Perry's Perennial Pages: Green Mountain Gardener Articles-- your reliable source of gardening information for over 50 years.