New year means a new garden! I'm currently cozied up in my central Indiana home, peering out at a garden that's more 'frosty wonderland' than 'floral paradise'. It's that time of the year when my well-loved gardening gloves are hibernating, and my morning walks are swapped for a brisk shuffle to the mailbox.
Winter, with its chilly embrace, has transformed my outdoor green-colorful canvas into a still, white painting that nobody wants to hold. But as any true gardener knows, the key to a flourishing garden starts long before the last frost melts away.. While my boots and shovel take a well-deserved break, my mind is abuzz with dreams of blooms, veggies and other DIY projects. Yes, the soil outside may be quite frozen solid, but the soil indoors in my grow room? It's just waiting for a sprinkle of seeds and a dash of love.
Planning Ahead: Seed Starting Calendar
Now is the perfect time to create a seed starting calendar, you can go fancy and get something digital or be old school like me and write it down in your journal. This invaluable tool helps organize and track when to start various seeds indoors. Remember, some seeds require 8-10 weeks of time to grow indoors, while others only a couple of weeks. Making sure to add special notes for some seeds is also beneficial… Do you need to soak? Do you need to cold stratify? Do you need to do scarification? In central Indiana (Now a zone 6 by the way), our growing season has a defined start, usually around late April - early spring, after the danger of frost has passed. But to ensure that my garden is vibrant and productive from the get-go, I start many of my plants indoors.
By counting backward from the estimated last frost date (typically around late -April in our region), I can determine the optimal time to start each type of seed. Tomatoes, for instance, need about 6-8 weeks of indoor growth before they're ready for the outside world. Therefore, starting them around March is ideal.
Here is one flower I am starting this month: VIOLAS
This is my second time growing violas from seed, and from my very short experience with them, I realize they are very slow to grow indoors. They thrive in cooler temperatures, making them an excellent choice for early spring planting. Starting violas from seed indoors during winter not only gives them a head start but also brings a bit of the garden's joy inside my home.
With seeds from a reputable source (My go-tos are Johnnys, Baker Creeks, botanical gardens and True Leaf Market), some quality potting mix, and a bit of patience, I can nurture these seeds into robust seedlings, ready to transplant once the weather warms. It’s always a joy to watch the tiny seeds sprout and grow, a daily reminder that even during the cold days of winter, I can still do some type of gardening.
This is the month for Winter Sowing
Winter sowing is another technique I've come to embrace. It involves sowing seeds in mini-greenhouses made from recycled containers, like milk jugs or soda bottles. You can get really creative here reusing old plastic clear containers that allow light and can hold soil and have good drainage. These are then left outside to brave the winter elements (Yes, outside, trust me!). This method mimics natural conditions, where seeds lie dormant through the cold, only to germinate when conditions are right.
If the winter in your area gets a bit dry, you might have to do some supplementing watering here and there, to make sure the seeds get some moisture often.
Winter sowing is particularly great for perennials and hardy annuals. It's a low-maintenance and economical way to grow a wide variety of plants. The seeds experience natural stratification (the process of being exposed to cold, moist conditions), which often results in stronger, more resilient plants.
As I impatiently await the arrival of spring, my heart is full of excitement and hope for the 2024 garden, with dreams of new flower varieties and new tomatoes in different shapes and sizes. Just like the 2023 garden, I know this year will bring so much joy, just like the struggles that are never ending in a healthy garden, and I am ready to embrace them all. During these chill winter months, it's not just about ticking off a to-do list. It's really about embracing that whole circle of life thing that makes gardening so awesome. It's like a quiet party for growing things, even when everything outside is sleeping under the snow.
So raise your hand if you are ready to rock the 2024 garden! Our gardens may be sleeping under the winter sky, but our passion for gardening is always, always awake, fueling our dreams for the new year, the new garden.
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