Take advantage of the cold to prepare yourself for spring. It looks like Mother Nature has decided to give us a good winter kick throughout the month of February. While you stay toasty warm in your home, there are plenty of gardening activities and learning opportunities to enjoy without going out in the snow.
• Start the seeds inside: Many vegetables and some flowers benefit from starting indoors, often six to eight weeks before being transplanted outdoors. For warm-season crops like tomatoes and peppers, the target date for moving plants outside is usually around mid-May. This places the target date for planting from late February to mid-March, depending on the crop. Read the seed package carefully for details specific to your plant. Remember to keep the seedlings moist and warm – two things that can be difficult at this time of year.
• Spring webinars: The Shawnee County Extension Master Gardeners is hosting a series of informative e-learning workshops in March. Join us to learn more about these introductory gardening topics that will help you get started in gardening with confidence. Each program will start at 2 p.m. on the date indicated.
• Selection of garden site and soil: March 9
• The right plant, the right place: March 16
• Planting and maintenance: March 23
Pre-registration is required for this free online event. Registration is required by 4:00 p.m. the day before the webinar. All webinars will be recorded and made available on our website. Register at https://bit.ly/3a3P3bX.
These programs are brought to you by K-State Research and Extension-Shawnee County. We would like to thank our community partners, Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library, Rossville Community Library and Topeka Habitat for Humanity, for their support.
• K-State Garden Time: Another great online learning opportunity kicking off this spring is K-State’s Garden Hour series. These free webinars will take place at noon on the first and third Wednesday of each month. This year, only one registration is required. This one-step registration will allow attendees to participate in any of the topics featured as part of K-State Garden Hour 2021. You can find out about the programs offered and register online at ksre-learn.com / KStateGardenHour.
• Sketch the garden of your dreams: As you begin to plant seeds and learn more about gardening, take the time to sketch out your ideal garden. I force myself to take this step before sowing my plants. I might want to sow 50 tomato plants, but given the shade I have, I will probably only have room for one or two plants. Even though I am sowing for my friends and family, I should not seed more than 20 plants. Having a realistic sketch of where you have the best sun, soil, and space can help you plan what to plant and what to buy. It also helps me when buying plants later in the year because I know what space I need to work with.
As you draw, keep pests, diseases, and other issues in mind. Make sure to rotate your vegetables, space perennials to improve air circulation, and place necessary plants near a water source. Remember to factor your time into your plan! You may have time now for 37 pepper plants, but they will need more attention in the hot summer. Newly planted trees and shrubs should be watered during hot summers and times of drought, so be sure to include them in your plans.
Dreaming about your future garden can also be a good time to prioritize the type of garden you want to have. If you want to support pollinators, plan for more natives and avoid pest and disease issues as a priority to reduce the likelihood of needing to use chemical sprays. If lugging around your garden hose is a challenge, plan your yard to include water-efficient plants and rain barrels. Creating the garden of your dreams can take several years, but a solid plan is the best way to achieve these goals.
Ariel Whitely-Noll is the Horticultural Officer for Shawnee County Research and Extension. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.