GARDENING: Dust off your garden journal-its planning time!

So Christmas fun is over and you feel like hibernating away for January and February. But guess what? If you are in the Midwest cold zones, these quiet months are a perfect time to review your garden notes and start planning. The fact is, we are only a few months away from spring time. If you have a plan and laundry list of plants you wish to purchase, when the early deals from nurseries start getting mailed to you, you'll be ready too take advantage of deals.

The other thing about planning early is planning for seeds. If you want to save money, planting seeds is a great way to have a bounty of plants ready to go in late April. The key is to start them in February. I started mine a little late last year, and some of my plants did not get established enough before transplanting them. The other things I learned about seeds are...

1: Using sterile seed soil is a must-if you don't do this, you will get "dampening" with the seedling shoots (they droop over and look sad from an overgrowth of bacteria in the soil)

2: Try watering techniques from the bottom v.s the top. Here is a link to a discussion about this. If you invest in a starter kit with a watering system, it's figured out for you.

3: Give them enough light (whether its natural or artificial)

4: Sprinkling unflavored gelatin with very fine seeds helps separate them and gives the young shoots nutrients

5: Burpee Seed starter kit was worth every penny (see post-

6: Have a mister or humidifier near the seedlings to keep things moist and happy. Don't overdo it-and make sure good air circulation and sunlight keep things balanced with the humidity. If you don't you will have fungal problems.

There is a bit more to seed sowing indoors, but this is a list of watch outs that I learned the hard way. Back to planning, a great online resource that's FREE is the Better Homes and Gardens site. ( They have pdfs of many garden plans, as well as some online tools to help you on your way.

The final thing that garden planning can do in these chilly months is cheer you up and shorten winter. Looking at green pictures and getting excited and inspired is a nice way to brighten cold, dreary days. So open that journal and garden catalog and get creative!



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