By Jane Gates, Signal Staff Writer
When the weather is too chilly, windy or wet to work outside, it doesn’t mean you can’t still do gardening in comfort. Here are some quick tips on outdoor gardening you can do while indoors.
Start seeds indoors. Fill seed trays with soil and get a jump on the gardening season by starting an early planting of the more delicate half-hardy vegetables and flowers you want in your garden. January isn’t too early to start some of the half-hardy plants so they will be big enough to set out in April.
Wander around the house and check your houseplants for insect pests, dead leaves, cracked pots or other problems you may not have noticed. Mealy bugs, aphids, whitefly and scale are nasty sap-sucking insects that can show up on the delicate growth tips or hiding on the underside of indoor plants.
Washing the affected part of the plant with soapy water will help. Or, spray with an insecticidal soap such as Neem or other organic pesticide. For stubborn sap-sucking insects with a natural coating that protects them from these eco-friendly contact insecticides, you will need to use a systemic insecticide that is poured into the soil and taken up by the roots so the pests will drink the poison.
Scale and mealy bugs will require this kind of treatment. (Keep children and pets away from treated plants and soil!)
Catch up on reading gardening articles or books to increase your knowledge or find out about the newest ideas and plant varieties. Apart from my own book, (pardon the shameless self-promotion!) there are garden and landscape books being released all the time. Gardening is a living project so plants, weather, soil, new tools, materials and ideas are a part of this ever-growing industry!
Take some local gardening classes, watch videos and read blog topics that interest you.
Grab those garden magazines and catalogs you’ve been meaning to check out for articles of interest and some new (or resurrected heirloom) plant releases. You know you’ve been meaning to get around to checking them out anyway, right?
Sketch out plans of your outdoor garden and areas where you want to make changes. Getting things planned out on paper will save you from making a lot of mistakes. If you prefer working online, there are some inexpensive design programs available. You can lay out your own ideas, meet with a professional to help guide you, or hire someone to do the job for you.
Re-pot plants that are root-bound. These can be potted plants from indoors or outside. Giving these plants more space to spread their roots come springtime will give them a whole new lease on life.
Investigate plans and designs for garden projects you’d like to build, like dog houses, trellises, storage sheds or DIY fire pits. If you like to build, you should be able to find help to create just about any structure you could want for your landscape.
Visit garden centers and sites or plan on visiting a regional garden show to get ideas for new plants, garden furnishings, non-living permeable paving materials or landscape designs.
Start a miniature dish garden to grow indoors or out. You can plant a whole landscape in a container by using tiny accessories — furniture, houses, rocks, sculptures — creating small waterfalls, and planting with small-leafed plants that grow with a low profile. There are kits you can buy to get yourself started, or just get creative with small plants from your local garden center and by putting together materials from a craft store. Or how about recycling that piece of junk in your garage, shed or back yard into an artistic container?
Too many gardens are turning into dusty havens for dead weeds or seas of boring gravel as some gardeners give up on having a reasonably easily maintained, lovely landscape with the challenging, shifting weather extremes.
But don’t give up! There are many new plants, designs and materials that can creatively counter changes and make the garden the outdoor home you always wanted. Use inclement winter days to catch up on all the new possibilities!
Hopefully, this list will get you thinking. There are plenty more jobs you can do for your outdoor garden even if you are confined indoors by the weather. Some of them can be practical and some can be just plain fun. See how many more ideas you can come up with on your own. Gardening doesn’t have to happen outdoors only when the weather is nice.