GARDENING Q&A: Removing Snow from Plants, Starting Seeds Indoors and More

Wow what a winter it has been! The cold weather and snow predicted for this week makes it seem as if the warmer days of spring may never arrive.

In this month’s gardening Q&A, the experts at Greenstreet Gardens provide us with helpful advice on how to:

  • Remove snow and ice from plants without damaging them;
  • Attract birds to your yard; and
  • Start seeds indoors
Covered with ice  017

Let the sun melt the ice on plants so that they are not damaged.

Stay warm!

Q. What happens when snow and ice coat my plants? Should I try and get it all off?

A.  To remove snow from plants, use a broom and LIGHTLY tap the branches to remove the snow. Hint: Start from the top and move down, and stand back unless you want a snow shower! Don’t worry about removing snow from the base of plants; snow works like a protective blanket, and as it melts, it will water thirsty plants.

Ice is a different story. It’s best to let Mother Nature work her warmth to melt the ice. An easy tap will remove snow but you need to whack a branch to remove ice…and there’s a pretty good chance you‘ll damage the plant in the process. So let ice melt.

Q. How can I attract birds to my yard?

A. Birds make great neighbors and we love to watch them at the feeders in our yard.  It’s easy to attract birds to your yard. Like all living creatures, birds need shelter, food and water. Provide shelter naturally by planting evergreen shrubs and trees or put out birdhouses, or both. Provide food in specially designed feeders. Some are mounted on poles, made to deter hungry squirrels. Tube feeders can be hung from tree branches or poles. Platform feeders are flat open feeders. Purchase a good quality seed to avoid a lot of waste; birds don’t eat fillers that are found in inexpensive blends, they literally toss it aside and it can get messy. Different birds prefer different seeds. Black oil sunflower seeds are a good basic choice as many of our native birds like them. And don’t forget water – birds need water to survive. Put out a birdbath or two and they will come! Remember the water will freeze and may crack ceramic birdbaths. You can buy heaters for birdbaths that keep the water from freezing – you will need to put the birdbath near an electric outlet to connect the heater.

A good source of information on backyard birding is available on-line from Cornell University:

Q. Any tips on starting seeds indoors?

A. Successful growing from seed starts with the right growing medium. Garden dirt or regular potting soil is too heavy. Use seed-starting mix, available at garden centers. Moisten the mix with warm water, and fill your containers to within 1/4 to 1/2 inch of the top.

As for containers, seeds aren’t picky – just make sure they have good drainage holes. An alternative is pots that break down in the soil. You plant them right in the garden. Scatter the seeds on the soil surface or place individually into each growing cell. Read the seed packet for specific planting instructions.  Gently moisten with lukewarm water. Don’t forget to label the containers so you can identify the seedlings later. Save the seed packet for reference.

You can cover their flats or containers with clear plastic until the seeds germinate. This helps trap heat and moisture. Seed-starting kits include set of good-sized containers, a tray to set them on and a clear lid to hold in humidity during the early stages.

Seeds need gentle warmth to germinate. Set the planted containers on top of a refrigerator or dryer, or use heating mats sold for this purpose. Check the soil every day. It needs to be moist but not soggy.

When the sprouts are about half an inch tall, it’s time to move them to a sunny spot – and turn down the temps. Room temperature, between 60 and 70 degrees will be ideal. Seedlings need 14 to 16 hours of direct light. If your seedlings grow leggy, they’re not getting enough light. If your seedlings are growing in a window, increase the light by covering a piece of cardboard with aluminum foil and placing it in back of the seedlings. The light will bounce off the foil and back onto the seedlings. If you don’t have enough natural light, you can purchase “grow” lights at garden and home centers.

When your seedlings grow a second set of leaves, start using a liquid fertilizer at half strength doses until they are three or four weeks old. After that, fertilize weekly according to the directions on the fertilizer package.

When it gets warmer outside – probably late April – start “hardening off” your seedlings. Take them outdoors for an hour or so each day, gradually increasing the time outside.  Be sure to protect them from too much wind and hot sun – and don’t forget to bring them in at night!


A note from Greenstreet Gardens:

It’s been a darn cold winter – are you getting itchy to get your hands dirty? We sure are…so we’re holding two workshops on Sunday, February 16th.  The workshops will be held in our (warm!) greenhouse:

  • Plant Your Own Hanging Basket…you plant it, we grow it, and you pick it up this spring. $30 includes all material. 10 a.m.
  • Make a Terrarium…we’ll provide a glass container, all the planting medium ,a variety of plants – and instruction to design your own terrarium. $35 includes all material. 1 p.m.

For specific information follow us on Facebook, check out our website or give us a call at 410-867-9500. Hope to see you!

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