Take advantage of the cold to prepare for spring. It seems like Mother Nature decided to give us a strong winter kick all through February. While you stay warm in your home, there are plenty of gardening activities and learning opportunities that you can enjoy without walking in the snow.
• Start the seeds indoors: Many vegetables and some flowers benefit from starting indoors, often six to eight weeks before transplanting outdoors. For warm season plants like tomatoes and peppers, the goal is to bring plants outside, usually in mid-May. This sets the target date for sowing from the end of February to mid-March – depending on the harvest. Read the seed packaging carefully for details about your plant. Remember to keep the seedlings moist and warm – two things that can be tricky at this time of year.
• Spring webinars: The Shawnee County Extension Master Gardeners are hosting a series of informative online learning workshops in March. Get to know these introductory gardening topics with us, which will help you confidently start gardening. Each program starts at 2 p.m. on the specified date.
• Garden site selection and soil: March 9th
• Right plant, right place: March 16th
• Planting & Maintenance: March 23rd
Pre-registration is required for this free online event. Registration must be made by 4 p.m. the day before the webinar. All webinars are recorded and made available on our website. Register at https://bit.ly/3a3P3bX.
These programs are made available to you by K-State Research and Extension-Shawnee County. We’d like to thank our community partners, the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Libraries, the Rossville Community Library, and Topeka Habitat for Humanity, for their support.
• K-State Garden Hour: Another great online learning opportunity starting this spring is K-State’s Garden Hour series. These free webinars take place on the first and third Wednesday of each month at 12:00 noon. Only one registration is required this year. With this one-step registration, participants can take part in one of the presented topics within the K-State Garden Hour 2021. You can find out about the programs on offer and register online at ksre-learn.com/KStateGardenHour.
• Sketch your dream garden: Take the time to sketch out your ideal garden as you start out with seeds and learn more about gardening. I do this step before I sow my plants. I might want to sow 50 tomato plants, but when I look at the shade I have, I will probably only have room for one or two plants. Even if I sow for friends and family, I should not sow more than 20 plants. Having a realistic sketch of where to have the best sun, soil and space will help you plan what to sow and what to buy. This also helps me with purchasing plants later in the year as I know which space to work with.
As you sketch, think about pests, diseases, and other problems. Make sure to rotate your vegetables, move perennials away from each other to improve airflow, and place plants near a source of water. Don’t forget to factor your time in your plan! You may now have time for 37 pepper plants, but they need more attention in the hot summer. Newly planted trees and shrubs should be watered in hot summers and drought periods. So be sure to include them in your plans.
Dreaming about your future garden can also be a great time to prioritize the type of garden you want. If you want to support pollinators, plan for more locals and prioritize avoiding pest and disease problems to reduce the chances of having to use chemical sprays. If hauling your water hose is a challenge, plan your garden to include low-water-consuming plants and rainbows. Creating the garden of your dreams will take several years to complete, but a strong plan is the best way to achieve these goals.
Ariel Whitely-Noll is the horticultural agent for Shawnee County Research and Extension. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.