This frigid February is breaking all records for low temperatures! What is a gardener to do? As I write this, the thermometer on the back porch reads -6 degrees Fahrenheit (that is -21 degrees Centigrade for my friends in England -- yes, there is a 'minus' in front of the number.) Baby, it's cold outside, and I'm not venturing through the door. Again, I ask, what can a frustrated gardener do? Two satisfying indoor activities come to mind: watching backyard birds, and seed starting; both guaranteed to lift the spirits without freezing the fingers.
From my favorite armchair in the garden room, I participated in the Great Backyard Bird Count last weekend. It is fun to go to the website and see the results of the count. Click here to view maps and results by county, state or country. There were 17595171 total individual birds counted all around the world. In my backyard, the cardinals were the most prolific, with bluebirds close runners up.
|3 male cardinals and 1 female (she is bottom left-ish.)|
|The bluebirds arrive early morning when the light isn't too good for photographs.|
|Nuthatch fluffed up against the cold.|
|One of a flock of robins that visited the pond.|
I was happy to observe Spunky, the one-legged sparrow, out and about each day of the count.
|Spunky, the one-legged sparrow, shelters under the rocking chair on the porch.|
The bird count is over, but I am still enjoying the birds.
Now for a real 'gardening' activity: Let's start some seeds; a simple, but effective way to shake off the winter blues. This is a good time to start pansies, as they can be transplanted outside before the last frost date. I purchased heirloom seeds again this year from Annie's. Click here for my reasons. I love the idea that the pansies I chose date back to the 1800's.
Using peat pellets is my favorite way to start seeds. A good reason: I can place the new plant directly into the garden without removing it from the peat medium, meaning less transplant shock, and no damage to delicate roots. Several years ago, I purchased mini 'greenhouses' with trays, covers, and heat pads that I use every planting season. I just have to buy pellet refills each year.
|Each tray holds 75 peat pellets|
The pellets are thin, flat discs. Gradually add water to cause them to expand. I add approximately 2 1/2 liters of warm water for the entire tray.
|Add water to expand the pellets.|
Add more water as needed. The pellets are fully expanded when they are about 1 -11/2 inches tall and turn dark brown.
The next step is to gently pull back the netting on top of the pellets and fluff and level the surface peat. I use a small fork.
|A fork works well for this stage.|
The pellets are now ready for the seeds. Sow 2 - 3 seeds in each, and cover them lightly with the peat.
Cover the tray with the plastic dome and place in a warm location away from direct sunlight.
I set up a seed-starting table in the children's room (my grandchildren don't usually stay here at this time of the school year. When they do come, they are accustomed to finding plants and seeds in odd places in this house.) The room is cold at night, so I place a heating pad under the tray.
When the pellets turn light brown I know it is time to add water, being careful not to over water.
|My 'children' are ready to grow in the grandchildren's bedroom.|
When the first seeds sprout, I prop open the dome. When all the seeds have sprouted, I remove the dome and place the tray under a grow light. The grow light is on the table ready to go. I'll post an update when the first true leaves appear.
The weatherman forecasts another snow storm coming tomorrow and frigid temperatures to continue next week! I'm so glad the birds still visit despite the weather.
|The oh-so-photogenic titmouse.|
What are your indoor, winter gardening activities, my friends?
Stay warm and healthy!
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