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Area gardeners deal with March madness by starting seeds indoors

The only things growing outside now are the icicles hanging from my eaves. Gardeners, after a long winter are getting the itch to plant and may wish to start some seeds indoors. We see sun and think spring but patience is a virtue that we find difficult to achieve.

Some seeds, such as geranium take a long time to germinate and grow to planting out size. These seeds should probably have been started in January; petunia, impatiens, and begonia seeds in February; and coleus, dusty miller, nicotiana, pinks, snapdragons, verbenas and parsley in early March. Alyssum, moss roses, salvia, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and lettuce can be started in mid to late March. However, tomato seeds germinate in seven days and need only six to eight weeks to grow to a planting out size.

Sowing them too soon results in tall scraggly stems. If this does happen, bury the stems, leaving only a tuft of leaves above the ground. Check your seed packets to find the correct number of weeks to sow before planting outside.

There are cool weather and warm weather plants and you need to take that into consideration when starting seeds. Cool weather plants such as pansies, sweet peas, lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, and kale may be planted outdoors before the last average frost date. Warm weather plants, such as tomatoes, peppers, squash, coleus and zinnias must wait until after the last frost.

Do not be fooled by a sunny 70-degree day in early May. Sunny days are not enough because the ground has to warm up too. When the soil temperature reaches the mid 50’s, cool weather plant roots get excited and will grow. Warm weather plants require soil temperatures in the 60’s to begin active growth.

Every garden has microclimates and it can be spring in the front yard, but still winter in the backyard. Gardens along south and west facing walls may warm up quicker than other areas.

Spring is like Christmas to nurseries and you may be tempted long before it is time to plant. If you buy some plants before you are able to dig them in do not keep them indoors or in the garage. Put them in a wheelbarrow and wheel them in and out of your garage as the weather permits. Nurseries already have supplies of forced bulbs, such as tulips and daffodils. Use these to fill window boxes and containers in early spring. Add some pansies, violas, alyssum or snapdragons for a nice show that will last until the weather gets hot. After the bulb foliage browns plant them in your garden and they may bloom again next spring. I have had luck with grape and regular hyacinths reblooming.

Bare root shrubs and trees may be planted as soon as the ground thaws in April and through the first week in June, according to Bergeson’s Nursery. These are dormant and undergo less stress than containerized plants, which are used to being watered every day. Water them thoroughly after planting and wait until they are all leafed out before watering again.

Early spring is the time to get out and prune shrubs and trees while they are still dormant. Don’t prune the early blooming shrubs, such as Lilac and Forsythia at this time. One thing to think about if you are working in your yard and garden is soil compaction. Let the soil dry out some first so that you do not squeeze out the air pockets that are needed by plant roots.

While we wait for spring to finally arrive keep on making plans for beautiful flower and bountiful vegetable gardens.