All our expert gardeners agree, January and February is a great time of year to start dreaming about colorful landscapes and fresh garden vegetables.
“During the dead of winter there is more time to ‘window shop’ through gardening magazines, books or catalogs,” explains Zannah Crowe, horticulturist at Monches Farms in Colgate. “It is the perfect time to research plants and flowers online and gather the information you need to make the best gardening choices.”
“Another great way to get ideas for your garden is to attend the Wisconsin Public Television Garden Expo in Madison. It is a show explicitly for gardening with great lectures and workshops that will help you decide what would best fit your needs,” Crowe adds. This year’s Expo is being held from Friday, Feb. 10 to Sunday, Feb. 12.
“Include the whole family,” suggests Melinda Meyers gardening expert, on-air host, author and columnist. “It is a great way to spend time together and give everyone a stake in the outcome.”
“It is important to review what you did last year to determine the areas that need sprucing up or what areas you might want to change,” Meyers recommends. “Put together a diagram carefully considering the ease of growth, color, when the plants will bloom or ripen and how big the plants will be when they mature. This is especially important when working with shrubs and trees.”
“When it comes to perennials, people sometimes get intimidated. So I suggest starting with just a few perennials until you get comfortable with what is going on in the garden. Pop a few annuals in between them to give color and depth to the garden.” Meyer advises. Keep in mind that perennials, done right, can cut back or alleviate the need to plant flowers every year.
Annuals on the other hand are great for color all summer long. Annuals do require more attention in terms of fertilizing and watering, so you need to be up for the work involved in the care of these plants.
“I am particularly drawn to flowers that attract bees because they are great for the ecosystem. I am also partial to plants that provide food for hummingbirds and butterflies,” Meyer admits. “Salvia, ageratum, violets and petunias work very well.” She suggests phlox, lavender and bee balm as well.
“You can begin planting your annuals, by seed, indoors in April for transplanting outdoors in May,” Crowe says. “Order your seeds early for the best selection.”
When it comes to vegetables, “Only plant what you need,” says Meyer. “If you overdo it, the task of keeping up with the garden becomes overwhelming and discouraging.” Consider the yield of certain vegetable plants and realize that sometimes less is better.
Determine how large the plant will get and space plants accordingly, leaving enough room between rows for you to navigate the garden without compacting the soil around the plant.
Don’t forget to research the best way to prepare your soil when putting together your garden plans. Have the soil tested for pH level and density. Bad soil will significantly impact plant growth and yield.
“If you have a real itch for live plants, you could consider growing herbs indoors all year round under grow lights,” proposes Teresa Prescott, designer at Garden Gate, Hartland. “The activity will sooth a gardener’s craving and provide fresh herbs for your recipes.”
“There has also been a renewed interest in growing microgreens from seeds that go great with sandwiches and salads,” adds Meyers. “Sunflower seeds are great for indoor microgardening; the sprouts have a delicious nutty flavor.”
Relish the dreams and plans for your outdoor gardens while enjoying a salad with fresh parsley and sprouts from your indoor garden!