Winter Goals

winter goals

Now that I am feeling better, I can get back to my list of winter jobs that I create every year in my gardening offseason. As it is also our cottage offseason, I have things to get done in preparation for spring there too.

Dividing Houseplants and Winter Sowing

My houseplants are all doing very well, in fact so well that I have started propagating babies on many of them. These have already been promised to my daughter-in-laws. I know experts say you should not divide houseplants during the winter but it’s the only time I have time.

Winter sowing of seeds was so successful last winter that I plan to repeat that process. That’s where all those gorgeous zinnias came from that I transplanted at our local hospice last spring. All it takes is soil, clear plastic containers, and seeds. As you can see below, I have lots of seeds, this is just a small pile. Pretty simple, really. These mini greenhouses thrive on my (part sun, part shade) back deck, under the snow, as they require a cold stratification step for reliable germination in the spring. I am trying both perennials and self-seeding annuals this year.

winter projects

Sewing, the Other Kind

I hope to get some cushions made for a teak sofa at the cottage. The bones are great on it, light and airy, something that is important up there. The problem is we are not far enough along in our indoor renovations there to decide on colours. I’m pretty sure of the colour palette I want to incorporate for the whole renovation project, but have to find appropriate colour chips to show hubby what I like. The sofa colour is an important step but involves finding the appropriate (weight and colour) fabric. Now that my cough and other symptoms have subsided I can venture out to the fabric and paint stores for inspiration.

Spring Cleaning

One of the best things about removing the Christmas decorations around the house is that the process involves a good (pre) spring cleaning. I can almost check this job off my list as I accomplished a bit each day during my (limited) energy spurts the past few weeks.

Updating Family Photos

I would like to update my family pictures too. For Christmas, my grandchildren gifted me with a photo shoot with Hilary Elizabeth photography, the girls that did such a wonderful job at our eldest son’s wedding five years ago. What a great idea; It is so difficult to get a good family picture with six grandchildren and seven adults!

winter goal

Website and Blog Updates

The updates on my website and blog are ongoing from November to March. This winter I have decided to combine the two, so I will be deleting (not renewing) my Gardens4u website. This blog was already connected to it with lots of information overlapping anyway. The website was primarily used to attract new clients. Last garden season I decided to take on a few new garden design projects as time permitted but no more maintenance. I ended up doing some fall cleanup though for a few long standing clients as the wonderful fall weather was extended into November.

As for this blog, I have already created a Gardens4u tab (within the menu at the top, check it out!) with lots of before and after pictures of gardens I have designed and planted over the past ten years. There are lots of pictures from my own gardens, based on the bloom time of the flowers.

I am also contemplating hiring an expert to clean up the blog so it rates better on Google searches. If you can refer me to someone I would appreciate the help. I have done as much as I can with my limited technological and SEO knowledge.

Another goal this winter is to find new sponsors interested in advertising on this blog. Currently, I have mostly plugs for family and friends on the sidebar. Be sure to check them out too please, there is an interesting variety of talent.

Read More Books

Other than garden books, I like to get caught up on other reading in the winter. These past few weeks, when I was feeling under the weather, this love for reading was quite handy. And thankfully, I had just visited our local library before I was struck down. I think I’ve gone through all the James Patterson books, never get tired of his (fictional thriller) writing style. There is a reason he is the world’s best selling author! If you have not (literally) made his acquaintance yet, you should!

Seeds: Harvesting and Sowing Techniques

seeds

It’s that time of year! Having learned a lot over the past few years about harvesting and sowing seeds, this post shares the techniques I have been most successful with. The wildflower (AKA butterfly) garden created at our local hospice relied heavily (over 90 percent) on seeds. Some were purchased, many donated, and others collected or harvested by myself from my own and clients’ gardens.

Harvesting Seeds Requires Patience

The most important requirement for optimal seed harvesting success is patience, something I don’t have loads of. The seed heads have to be dried out, some actually fluffy (like dandelions) to be effective. Although I am loving this amazingly warm fall weather, seed heads are late to reach this stage this year due to the lack of miserable (cold, frosty) weather.

If you are impatient and do collect your seed heads before the seeds come away easily from the calyxes (the part of the flower head that holds the seeds together), dry them out in a warm spot, in a single layer.

Then, when they reach that fall apart stage, store them in a paper bag. Don’t use plastic bags as they hold moisture in causing your seed heads to get moldy. The faster the seeds dry out the better.

Brown Paper Bags

I find the best (and most cost-effective) way to collect seeds is to use brown paper bags. I use the kind we used to pack our lunches in, before lunch boxes were a thing. You can still buy them in grocery stores, so someone must still use them for lunches. You could also use the brown bags given out at LCBOs, they would work just as well. For those of you not living in Ontario, they are our government-run liquor stores.

Simply hold the bag under the seed head and cut the stem just below the seed head so it falls into the bag. I use a separate (labelled) bag for each type of seed head but that’s because I collect tons of seeds. If you are collecting fewer seeds of a greater variety for a blended, random wildflower garden, store them all in the same bag.

I add a strip of heavy-duty tape (book binding tape works well) to the bottom of each bag so the seeds don’t escape through the bottom of the bags.

Seed Sowing Techniques

I have discussed my sowing successes and failures in previous posts. The easiest method (that I tried) was the outdoor winter trick using clear plastic clamshell (from grocery stores) containers. If you try this, be sure to leave your containers in a partly sunny (not full sun or full shade) location outdoors for best results.

The plastic cup method in late spring also worked well, especially to fill in bare spots. It too was easy and inexpensive.

Both the clear plastic clamshell containers (winter) and cups (spring) act like mini-greenhouses, holding the moisture in and collecting the warmth of the sun. For obvious reasons, the plastic used must be clear (not frosted, no stickers/writing etc).

Before you pick one of the methods mentioned over the other, research whether or not your seeds require a cold stratification stage to ensure success. Most perennial seeds have a tough exterior shell requiring this cold step, while most annuals do not. The clamshell method includes this stage while the cup method does not.

Unfortunately, I have still not had much luck or success with sowing seeds indoors for spring transplanting. That technique seems to need lots of patience too. Perhaps that’s my problem. I manage to get the seedlings to a few inches tall then they fizzle out.

Conclusions

I’d love to hear from anyone that has experimented with seed harvesting and sowing, both failures and successes. It is definitely a learning curve!