Hello Fellow Readers,
As I write our latest eight inches of white fluff graces our world. But hold tight, we’re in the preamble of spring. I smiled over the weekend when I noticed the Hosta in the potted gardens I’ve been overwintering in the garage have emerged. Seeing their pale three-inch shoots feels like finding a Crackerjack prize! There’s always a question whether the temperature in the unheated garage will stay adequate to keep the roots from freezing. Be sure to check the moisture of the soil if you’ve overwintered pots, but don’t drown them.
Which brings me to a status report on my newly thought of technique – melting snow to water my indoor plants. We spoke previously how rainwater and snow are free from salts and treatment chemicals found in public water as well as surface or groundwater which more dramatically accumulates in potted plants. Plus, one of the key nutrients a plant needs to survive are nitrates, a combination of nitrogen and oxygen, found in rainwater. It worked famously, though Curt moved the five-gallon spackle bucket a few times from the living room to a more discreet hallway spot when I brought it inside to warm up the water to room temperature. I know, it may seem over the top. But how would you feel having freezing water poured on your bare feet? My indoor plants are far less fatigued from the drying effects of indoor heat this year and in a few weeks, it’ll be time to upsize one-pot size those plants in need. (Link to the previous column Rain (& Snow) Harvesting)
We’re also coming up on the time to start annual seeds indoors. A rule of thumb is eight weeks before the last frost date, normally about May 19th here, so plan around St. Patty’s Day which seems fitting. Bring on the green! Favorites like peppers, tomatoes, celery, and less loved brussels sprouts (though they’re my fav, especially roasted) need a long growing season for an abundant harvest and ours is not long enough to start seeds directly in the ground. (Check out a previous column on Starting Veggie & Perennial Seeds Indoors and Green with Envy Seed Starting Tips from a local flower farmer.)
Oh yes, a critical to-do now, especially with the snow cover, is deer spray your evergreens. Deer are more daring and desperate this time of year and will come close to the house where folks typically have evergreen shrubs. And, where we often push the envelope on plants not as high in deer resistance like by Blue Holly, Rhododendron, and Cherry Laurel. One year the top branches of my foundation plants peeking out of the snow were heavily browsed. It took all season to grow out the ugly mohawk haircut. It’s nature’s way of pruning I suppose, but not right next to the front door thank you very much. Garden Dilemmas? AskMaryStone@gmail.com
I may shift the pot of baby hosta shoots closer to the window, so the green gets darker. More for my own satisfaction – aren’t we all desperate for green? But they’ll be fine until spring when I’ll harden them off by introducing them gradually to the outside world over a seven to ten-day period. Hardening off is not as critical for shade-loving plants like Hosta, but important for sun-loving plants or seedlings started indoors.