When we're stuck in the middle of winter and spring seems a loo-ong
way off, it can be a frustrating time for those of us who love to be
outside tending to our gardens or tinkering with our landscaping.
It feels like there's nothing we can do except maybe browse print or
online plant catalogs. But there are quite a few activities we can
indulge in if we want to keep the green from fading entirely from our
fingers! There are even some ways to involve other members of the
If you have children or grandchildren who enjoy their time with you in
your garden, there are a number of ways to maintain their horticultural
interest until spring arrives. Here are just a few of the fun ideas
that I found at http://pss.uvm.edu/ppp/articles/wintrfun.htm in an
article written by Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor at the
University of Vermont:
When the weather keeps your kids inside, try cultivating a windowsill
garden. All you need is a sunny spot and a few containers of soil.
Herbs are an excellent choice for windowsills. Later, kids can harvest
their herbs and add their own creative touch to a meal you prepare
Watch seeds sprout.
Maybe you did this in grade school! You simply line a glass jar with a
damp paper towel and insert several zucchini seeds between the glass
and the towel. Place a lid on the jar, leave it on the kitchen counter,
and check the paper every day to make sure it's still moist. Seeds
should sprout in a few days. You can try bush beans instead of
zucchini, if you prefer.
Feed the birds.
Stock up on birdseed and suet at your local garden center, and feed the
birds this winter. Have your child keep a record of all the species of
birds that come to the feeder and what date each first was spotted.
Dr. Perry has many other kid-friendly winter gardening project ideas
(personally, I'm not too sure about the worm farm!) and you can find
the entire article by visiting the web page listed above. If you
prefer, you can go to my web site www.landsteward.org and find this
column archived under "The Plant Man" heading. You can then click
on a direct link to that article as well as many other useful online
An enjoyable cold-weather project for adults is the creation of a mini
indoor winter garden.
If you don't have enough room for a full-size terrarium (or you
don't care to invest in one) you can create a miniature terrarium
environment using something called a cloche. A cloche is a bell-shaped
glass cover that you can place over a single plant in a small pot.
Garden supply stores and some craft shops sell "real" cloches, but
you probably have something in your kitchen that you can use as a
substitute. Find a vase or a large glass jar and turn it upside down
over the plant. The cloche will keep the moisture in and will act like
a tiny greenhouse. Place your cloche-covered plant on a south-facing
windowsill, but avoid long exposure to direct sunlight. A small button
fern would be an ideal plant to cultivate in this way.
You can find a useful description of how to set up a terrarium
(complete with photos) at http://www/hgtv.com where you simply type the
phrase "indoor winter gardens" into the "search" window. Again,
there's a link to the hgtv web site in this column at my web site.
I am sometimes asked if it is wise to try and remove ice and snow from
trees to prevent the weight from breaking the limbs. If snow is piling
up on evergreens, try to brush it off gently, but do not shake the
branches as you could cause them to snap!
If ice has built up on branches, I believe that in most cases it is
best to let it melt naturally, rather than risk damaging the tree or
shrub. If a limb should break due to the weight of ice, it is
advisable to have the limb cut off cleanly because a clean cut will
help the wound to heal faster in the spring.
Take heart: spring will soon be here!
The Plant Man is here to help. Send your questions about trees, shrubs
and landscaping to email@example.com and for resources and
additional information, or to subscribe to Steve's free e-mailed
newsletter, visit www.landsteward.org