Ideas to expand your gardening hobby all winter long

Rob Zimmer

With the warmth of another February thaw upon us, the dreams and passions of gardeners across our area come alive with thoughts of spring color, flowering plants, and getting our hands dirty.

Connecting with the earth through the plants and landscapes we nurture, our deepest dreams and treasured memories come to the surface, filling us with an excitement that lasts through all four seasons.

It is now, in the last weeks of winter, that the gardening season truly begins. Here are some ways to enjoy gardening activities even during the coldest part of winter.

A great way to beat the winter blues and garden indoors is to explore the world of easy to grow home orchids.

Pages of dreams

By now, garden catalogs have begun to arrive, sometimes by the dozens. All of the big, popular gardening catalog companies have begun shipping out their colorful, tempting delights, brimming with the season's newest and most colorful selections.

Nothing beats sitting in front of a warm fire on a long winter night slowly paging through these colorful, glossy treasures, deciding which breathtaking plants to order and try out for the coming growing season.

From specialty catalogs to seed catalogs and general garden companies that offer a bit of everything, it's easy to drift deep into garden fantasies as you browse and shop from the warmth and comfort of your home.

Freshen the air

Chances are, you've seen the reports over the past few years demonstrating how effective indoor plants are at cleaning toxins and pollutants from the air inside your home.

If you haven't discovered house plants yet, consider setting up an area with simple growing lights and display shelves to feature some of the best foliage and flowering plants for cleaning the very air you breathe.

You'll discover that there are a wide variety of indoor plants available for all light conditions. Not all indoor plants require bright light and constant sunshine. This knowledge alone opens up a whole new world of gardening joy.  African violets, orchids by the hundreds, tropicals and so much more are just the beginning.

Colorful and easy to grow, African violets are a favorite of many indoor gardeners.

Winter sowing

Winter sowing is a wonderful hobby to explore.

This activity involves sowing the seeds of perennials and other plants now in the middle of winter in protective containers that act as mini greenhouses.

Gallon milk jug work the best, though people will also utilize plastic containers of other types, such as two liter soda bottles and deli containers.

Simply cut the top off of a gallon jug, poke drainage holes in the top as well as the bottom and fill with potting mix. Plant the seeds according to package directions, use duct tape to reattach the top of the jug as a cover, water and label.

Set the jugs in a semi-protected spot outdoors and Mother Nature will do the rest. Your seeds will have a great head start when spring arrives.

An even simpler method of direct winter sowing is to simply take seeds you gathered last fall, or purchase now, and simply scatter them on top of the snow over the area you wish to grow them.

The thaw cycle will bring your seeds in contact with the moist soil as the snow melts, where they will germinate naturally as they do in the wild.

Seed starting

Seed starting is a wonderful hobby for many gardeners in our area. You don't need to have an elaborate set up to start your own seeds indoors to get a jump-start on spring.

Even just a bright, sunny window, sun room or simple growing light are enough to get you started.

Most plants should be started 4 to 8 weeks before planting outdoors, so there's still plenty of time to research set ups and supplies, all of which are on sale now at garden centers and retail outlets near you. Check the individual seed packets for best time to start indoors.

The creativity, fun and endless possibilities of miniature gardening, or fairy gardening, makes designing and creating tiny botanical worlds a joy.

Miniature gardening

Miniature gardening or terrarium gardening, sometimes called dish gardening, is another increasingly popular activity for winter gardeners.

Many garden centers, craft shops and specialty shops offer an assortment of fun miniature garden accessories, plants and more to help you enjoy creating breathtaking gardens in miniature.

Grow plants from scraps

Especially fun for children, growing plants from food scraps is a bright and colorful way to show youngsters how easy and fun gardening can be.

Simply placing the cut tops of carrots, pineapple, celery hearts and other scraps into a shallow pan of water will demonstrate how easy it is to grow from scraps you would otherwise toss.

Sweet potatoes and regular potatoes can be grown by suspending a potato partially in water and watching the roots and stems begin to grow.

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