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GARDENER’S CHECKLIST: Week of February 3, 2022

Slow-to-germinate seeds of perennial herbs such as this hyssop may be started this month. However, the resulting seedlings should not be transplanted to the garden until late May.

* Look for a light colored crust on the soil surface or rim of pots in which houseplants are growing. This crusty stuff is salt, left behind when water evaporated from the soil and pot rim. The origin of this salt is usually fertilizer and indicates long term or excessive application of fertilizer, which in turn can cause severe damage to plant roots. There are two approaches to correcting this situation: repotting in fresh soil or leaching of the accumulated salt. The latter can be accomplished by adding a couple of quarts of fresh, room temperature water, a little at a time to the pot. For large pots, it may be necessary to use a couple of gallons of water. Be sure to discard the water that has drained through the soil. Also, re-evaluate the amount of fertilizer applied to the potted plants.

Remains of fertilizer in soil
A light colored crust on the soil surface or rim of a pot in which a plant is growing is due to an accumulation of salts from applied fertilizers. Flush the excess salts by repeated applications of water or by repotting the plant in fresh soil.

*Allow tap water to come to room temperature before using it to water houseplants. Most houseplants are tropical in origin and their roots are sensitive to cold water. I keep several gallon-size containers filled with water so that I always have a supply of room temperature water.

Water warmed to room temperature
Fill a gallon container with water and allow it to come to room temperature before applying to houseplants.

* Don’t leave houseplants standing in water after they have been watered. Dump the drain water from the pot tray.

* Add nasturtium to your seed list. I can’t think of a more versatile plant. The bush types are great for container gardens or in a cottage garden while trailing types can be used for hanging baskets; and the leaves and flowers are edible. Seeds germinate in about ten days and flowering begins around 45 days after seeding and continues through the growing season. What more can you ask of a plant? Oh, it smells good, too.

Nasturtium in bloom
Add nasturtium to this year’s seed list. It is a most versatile plant.

* Sow seed of lavender, hyssop and other perennial herbs indoors. Most of these hardy herbs don’t need really high temperatures for germination, so you won’t need heating cables or other heat source. Be patient, as the seeds of perennial herbs may take as much as 21 days to germinate. Once germinated, grow the seedlings in a bright window or under LED lights. In late May, transplant the herbs to their permanent location in the garden.

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If gardening has become a bit routine, spice up your interest and enthusiasm by creating theme gardens. These include plants which relate to each other through some common theme or function. For example, the theme may be color – a garden with just white flowers or red flowers or purple flowers. Or, it may be a garden with flowers of several complementary colors: a sunset garden of red, orange and yellow flowers; a cool garden of white and pale blue flowers and silver foliage plants; or an ugly garden of hot pink and orange flowers (just wanted to see if you’re paying attention).

Themes can also relate to animal life. Create a garden which includes salvias, bee balm, coralbells, cardinal flower, penstemon, phlox, snapdragons, and other tubular-flowered plants to attract hummingbirds. Shrubs such as buddleia, flowering quince, weigela, beauty bush and honeysuckle may also be included. A butterfly garden or general bird garden is another option.

Other theme gardens might be designed around dye plants, native plants, plants with historic significance or relate to your national heritage. Have some fun now by researching and planning your theme gardens.

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