The dull days of winter can dampen even the most dedicated gardener’s spirits. To bring a bit of spring into the season, try forcing bulbs indoors. Bulbs of narcissus can be planted indoors without pre-chilling. Select healthy bulbs from your garden center that are firm and free from blemishes.
Fill a shallow container with about 3 inches of pebbles or stones and then firmly place the bulbs in the stones. Fill the container with water just to the level of the bottom of the bulbs and top up as the level goes down. Blooms will appear in about 5 weeks.
Order seed catalogues
Some seed companies have already begun sending out catalogues for next year so make sure you’re added to the list. Nothing lifts the spirits like browsing through catalogues and planning new ideas for the garden. Here’s a list of must haves:
Johnny’s Selected Seed – vegetables, herbs & flowers with excellent customer service. Order your print catalogue at www.johnnyseeds.com/14a.html or browse on-line
West Coast Seeds – seeds selected for coastal gardeners who have to garden through cool summers and mild winters. Their catalogue can be ordered at www.westcoastseeds.com/index3.cfm
Bethlehem Seed Company – A large variety of open-pollinated seed. All packages are priced under $1. View their website at: http://www.bethlehemseed.com/
Seed Savers Exchange – this organization has printed their first seed catalogue which is just stunning. An incredible listing of heritage beans & tomatoes along with a whole range of heirloom seed. The catalogue is $2 but well worth it. Contact them at:
SEED SAVERS EXCHANGE 3076 North Winn Rd. Decorah, IA 52101 TEL: 1-319-382-5990 FAX: 1-319-382-5872
Or, if you don’t have time to shop around but still want a great selection of seeds, try Eseed.com. The site lists many different varieties and will ship seeds anywhere. View the site at http://www.eseeds.com/
Take gardening classes
Your local community college or botanical garden will be putting on a variety of courses through the winter. Learn how to start seed indoors, make a bird feeder, plan a butterfly garden, or learn how to grow & use herbs.
Remember to leave your leaves
Don’t clean up your garden too much. Seed heads provide food for birds and insects, and ground foraging birds appreciate it if you don’t make your garden “floor” too clean! After all, nature doesn’t hire the elves with leaf-blowers in the autumn. Everything falls down and forms that lovely mat of slowly decaying organic material. Leaves contain high percentages of nutrients so mulch your garden with them. Or, use leaves to layer with garden waste in your compost.
For the last couple of years, home gardeners have been finding poor fruit set because of the lack of pollination insects. The population of honeybees has been steadily declining due to a highly infectious virus that has attacked the bee population across North America. Additionally, areas where other pollinating insects seek refuge through the winter have been destroyed from urban sprawl or agricultural spraying practices.
For any gardener who grows fruit trees or plants squashes and cucumbers, pollinating insects make a great deal of difference in the amount of food they can harvest. To overcome the problem, gardeners can attract the solitary Orchard Mason Bee. These bees are super-pollinators and their solitary nature has allowed them to withstand becoming infected with the virus. The bees are highly active early in the season, before most honeybees even come out of their hives.
The female Orchard Mason Bee is attracted to deep holes in wood boards and fences where she can lay her eggs. She then caps the ends of the holes with mud so that they are insulated through the winter. In the early spring, the adults will emerge from the holes and begin pollinating nearby fruit trees and flowering plants.
You can make your own Orchard Mason Bee House if you have access to thick blocks of wood and a drill. Holes need to be drilled at least 6″ deep so make sure the wood is thick enough. If you can, construct a roof over the block – female Orchard Mason Bees really like the added protection. Hang the block on any south-facing wall or post and you should begin to see the holes being filled with eggs by April-May.
For those without access to supplies or who are looking for wonderful gift ideas, Terra Viva Organics is pleased to supply gardeners with handmade Orchard Mason Bee Houses crafted by Vancouver artist Taren Urqhart. These houses come pre-drilled with eight holes and are decorated with tiles designed by Taren. A set of replacement straws also comes with the houses so that holes can be reused. For $22.95, this gift can be given year-round.
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Written by Arzeena Hamir, Agronomist, Terra Viva Organics firstname.lastname@example.org & by Sharon Hanna, Master Gardener and Urban Garden Designer, Emerge email@example.com