Calling all green thumbs…
Spring has officially sprung — well, kind of. In some areas, the weather hasn’t quite caught up just yet. Cooler temperatures make starting on your spring and summer gardening efforts difficult to say the least.
Take heart: warm weather will show up!
In the meantime, if you’re craving a bit of time with your hands in the dirt, you do have a long list of options. Get a jump on warmer weather efforts by starting your seeds inside and growing simple potted plants with our gardening guide.
- First, find your growing zone. Some areas of the United States are warmer than others this time of year; you may be able to garden just fine in Florida, but not in Maine. Use this link to locate yourself and learn more about your zone.
- Check plant hardiness.Most plants and seedlings you pick up at a nursery will have their hardiness zone marked right on them. Use this as a guide to find out the best time to plant them. You might be surprised to learn how much should go in the ground right about now!
- Start with pre-frost veggies. Items like collard greens, rutabagas, leaf lettuce, peas, turnip and spinach don’t need to be planted after the last frost. You can safely put them into the ground now. If you’re worried about storms or ice, you can use burlap to blanket your garden — but it often isn’t necessary.
- Grow some indoor herbs. You don’t need to garden outside to grow herbs. In fact, they make a fantastic year-round addition to your kitchen. Hang a vertical planter (make holes in a PVC pipe, fill it with dirt, add seeds) or line your windowsill with pots. Mint, thyme, sage, basil and dill all grow well like this, as do lemon verbena, oregano and winter savory. They also make your kitchen smell amazing!
- Start seeds indoors. There’s a few ways to do this, but ultimately, you can use what you have around the house. In fact, discarded toilet paper rolls make great pots. Just cut the roll in half and make four evenly-spaced cuts about 1/3 of the way up the bottom of the roll. Then, fold these flaps up like a box and fill the roll with soil. Start your seeds as you would with any other pot; when it’s time to put them outside, plant the entire roll.
- Plant seeds in egg cartons. You can also use egg cartons to start seeds. Just tear the top half of the carton off and make a small hole (use a pencil or a nail) in the bottom of each section. Fill with soil, plant one seed per section, and spritz with water. Once the weather warms up, tear or cut each section off and plant them directly into the ground. Easy!
- Make tiny greenhouses. Already put some plants in? If you’re feeling stressed about the resurgence of icy, cold weather, try making tiny greenhouses to keep them warm. Cut the top off of a plastic milk jug or pop bottle; gently place it down over each new seedling or sprout. In the sun, it will magnify the warmth, but it will also protect delicate new leaves from freezing rain and penetrating cold.
- Start new cuttings. Have a favorite rosebush or potted plant you want to multiply? Now is the perfect time to take cuttings from softwoods and herbaceous perennials, like dogwood, perovskia, hydrangea and lavatera. By mid-spring, you can also do this for fuschias, aubrietas, argyranthemums, and pelargoniums! Use a clean, sterile knife (like an X-acto knife) to make a 45-degree cut at or near the stem and branch attachment. Ideally, you want to take the tip of the stem and at least two to three leave bundles (where applicable). To root, remove the lowest buds or leaves, dip in root gel or powder, and gently plant into a light, airy soil. Provide lots of light and manage the moisture levels to avoid mold.
You might not be able to do it all right now, but there’s plenty you can do! Get a jump start on your gardening this year and bring spring into your house a little early. Got some great gardening tips? We’d love to hear them, so feel free to share in the comments.