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Beacon Senior News

A checklist for jumpstarting your garden

Jan 25, 2022 09:39AM ● By Bryan Reed

In the Celtic calendar, February 1 marks the first day of spring. Although the season as we know it won’t officially arrive for another two months, in Grand Junction, we hit 10 hours of daylight on January 25. That’s just the right amount of sunlight required by many plants to grow, which means it’s time to start gardening! 

Here are some things you can do in February to jumpstart your garden.

Test your seeds. If you’re not relying on new seed purchases this year, now is a good time to do a germination test on your existing seed stock. Begin by testing a minimum of 20 seeds at a time (100 will give you more accurate results). Place seeds inside a folded-up paper towel, spaced apart. Mist the paper towel with water, roll it up and place it in a jar with a cracked lid or cheesecloth on top to allow airflow and prevent molding. Place the jar on top of the hot water heater or in another warm location inside the house and wait for them to germinate.
   Most vegetable seeds will germinate in seven to 10 days. Mist the container daily or as needed to keep the paper towel moist. Around the seventh day, gently unwrap the paper towel and count how many seeds have sprouted. Re-roll the towel and continue checking the next couple of days.
   If 18 of your 20 seeds sprouted (a 90 percent germination rate) then they’re good for planting! If only 6 of 20 germinated, planting three seeds in each hole could be warranted. Be sure to note the germination rate on the seed package. Finding a zero germination rate now is better than finding it out after they’ve been planted. 

Cut back perennials and grasses to allow solar radiation to warm the soil around the plants. Solar radiation converts to thermal gain when soils are exposed to daylight and that can warm the roots of early crops. Mint, tarragon, parsley and oregano will also appreciate the warmer ground.

Clean up last season’s debris. I’ve found that new chives will emerge about three weeks earlier from gardens that have been cleared of debris from last season. 

Prune deciduous trees and shrubs. I prune out the old canes from my raspberry bushes around Valentine’s Day.

Begin planting cool season crops from seed indoors. Broccoli, cabbage, kale, chard, spinach, peas and Asian greens like tatsoi and pak choi, are all good candidates. These plants can be transplanted outside by the end of the month or early March (February 10-23 are optimal seeding dates if you follow a lunar calendar). 

Warm the soil. Designate an area of your yard to transplant your seeded crops. Warm the soil by securing black plastic around the edges of the area, which allows heat to build up underneath. Once the plastic is removed, any germinated weeds can be removed to clear the planting space. Adding amendments or compost to the soil before putting on the plastic will save weeding headaches after the new seedlings have been transplanted. DO NOT till the ground at this point,  as you’ll only turn up more weed seeds that have been dormant in the soil.