FIGHTING CABIN FEVER AND OTHER FEBRUARY GARDENING TIPS
By Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont
February may be the shortest month of the year, but it still seems like a long way until spring. But you can make the waiting easier by engaging in some indoor horticultural projects and activities with family and friends.
For the kids, borrow some garden-theme books from your local library to read aloud. Peter Rabbit or The Magic Hill are two fun ones for younger audiences. Your older kids will enjoy The Secret Garden. Your library also should have books on building birdhouses or butterfly abodes for hands-on craft projects.
Sprout some seeds to enjoy on salads this winter. Help your kids plant grass seed in a shallow container as a treat for the family cat, who is also probably anxious for warmer weather to arrive.
For your adult friends, plan a "Think Spring" party to help pass the time. Get together with some fellow gardeners to decorate terra cotta pots for summer container plantings. You should be able to find all the paints and decorating supplies you need at your local craft, art supply, or department store.
Swap extra seeds or put your heads together over one last order from your favorite seed company. Or ask everyone to bring cuttings from their houseplants to share or a small garden-related gift like a pressed flower bookmark, bottle of plant food, or even garden gloves to put in a grab bag.
If you like to read, why not start a book discussion group that focuses on books about plants, flowers, or gardens, such as The Secret Life of Plants by Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird, a collection of fascinating information, both scientific and folklore, on the unseen activities of plants. If you prefer garden mysteries, check out Agatha Christie's Murder at the Vicarage or Nemesis, or the "China Bayles Herbal Mysteries" and other garden-themed books by Susan Wittig Albert.
Ask your librarian for other suggestions, or have each book group member recommend a favorite book. A Web search on the Internet also will yield some interesting possibilities.
February is a good month to fill your house with flowers. You can buy inexpensive bouquets at your florist shop or grocery store to arrange in vases. Just make sure you cover your flowers or wrap them in paper, before you leave the shop or store to prevent injury from wind, cold, and precipitation.
Valentine's Day is the number one excuse to buy flowers, if not for a sweetheart, then for yourself. Carnations, daisies, tulips, and chrysanthemums are a good buy for your money. Or treat yourself or a loved one to long-stemmed red roses, a traditional favorite, or something more exotic like Asiatic lilies or Birds of paradise, an exquisite flower from Hawaii.
Take advantage of midwinter inventory clearance or preseason sales at your local garden center or commercial greenhouse. You may be able to get some good deals on holiday items, foliage plants, pottery, and lawn sculptures and other hardware. Get a sneak preview of new garden gadgets, and either buy them now or put them on your wish list for spring.
If you can't find what you want locally, comparison shop through mail order catalogs or on the Internet, keeping in mind that price is a good indication of quality. Just be sure you figure in the shipping charge and taxes when deciding which product is the best buy for your money!
Don't let February's cold weather prevent you from checking your bird feeders every few days and adding fresh seed. Black oil sunflower seeds are popular with most birds, as is a mix of sunflower hearts, millet, canary seed, and finely cracked corn. And don't forget to hang up a suet cake or two for the finches, chickadees, and woodpeckers.
Finally, start making plans for spring and summer. Book a garden tour, sign up for a workshop at your local garden center, or plan to attend the Vermont Flower Show, March 2, 3, and 4 in S. Burlington. For details, call (802) 865-5979, or check out this Website: <http://pss.uvm.edu/vfs/vfs.html>
Other activities for February: tune into your favorite gardening show on television; buy supplies for starting seeds next month; start a garden journal.