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In the Mood for Spring

By Melanie Moffett
In Features
Feb 25th, 2014


Five Ways to Treat Spring Fever

by P. Allen Smith

If you’re anything like me, you’re itching to get your hands back in the dirt by the end of winter.  You’ve had a rest, enjoyed the holidays and want to get outside already.  You’re eagerly examining your garden for any sign of spring, and when you see those early flowering daffodils and crocus, you’ll struggle to maintain your composure and try to stop yourself from squealing with excitement.

That’s where I am at right now.

At the farm I’m beginning to see signs of Spring — old-fashioned shrubs like quince, winter jasmine and Camellia japonica are in bloom and leaf buds on my fruit trees are plumping up — and we’ve been keeping close watch on the sheep in anticipation of the lambs to be born. Self-diagnosis confirmed: I have a serious case of spring fever. Even though we can’t rush spring, there are a few ways I’ve found to shake off winter’s chill.

You can get your hands dirty without venturing out into the cold by starting plants from seeds indoors. This activity will also give you a jump start on the growing season. When it’s time to do your spring planting your seedlings will be ready to go. To get started first find out the last typical frost date in your area and then count back 6-8 weeks to give yourself a date to plant the seeds. Tomatoes, eggplant, peppers and melons are all good choices to start inside. Cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, basil and chard also thrive when started indoors.

Early flowering shrubs such as quince, spirea and forsythia can be forced into bloom indoors. The delicate branches covered in blooms instantly add a distinct sophistication to a room. To force flowering shrubs, first select branches from trees or shrubs with flower buds and cut a branch off (about 2-3 feet in length). Be sure to select a branch with flower buds, not just leaf buds, which are slightly smaller than flower buds. Next, take the branch inside and make an inch-long slit in the base to help the branch absorb water. Place in a container with water. A few inches of the branch should be submerged. The container should be placed in a cool part of the house. After the blooms emerge, you can move the branches and pail to a normally heated part of the house, but keep the flowers away from drafts from heating vents. You can continue to make fresh cuts at the bottom of the branches every few days to extend the life of the blooms.

Plan a “daycation” and go to a flower show. There is nothing like a room filled with blooms and the scent of hardwood mulch to transport a person to a warmer season for a day.  We have some pretty impressive flower shows in the U.S. including the Philadelphia Flower Show, Northwest Flower and Garden Show in Washington State and the Southeastern Flower Show in Atlanta.

Impatient and resourceful gardeners have long concerned themselves with extending the growing season to increase their harvest.  One of my favorite ways to start plants is to use a cloche, a clear bell-shaped glass cover. It looks equal parts terrarium and decorative cake cover and helps starting plants by keeping them warmer and protecting their tender shoots from pests.  Plus the delicate-looking domes really add a touch of sophistication to the garden. Frost-resistant plants, such as English peas, lettuce, broccoli and cabbage, are all excellent choices to plant early outside.

To beat the winter blues, amp up your green at the grocery store with seasonal produce. Leafy greens like arugula, spinach and kale are thriving in early spring. Pick up a few Brussels sprouts, leeks and heads of cabbage.  And thanks to Valentine’s Day, chocolate might also be considered a seasonal food this month.

The South boasts and array of great shows to check out. If you’re in Georgia, stop by the Southeastern Flower Show in Atlanta April 25-27.  It’s one of the biggest and best flower shows in the nation and the displays look fantastic, like something Willy Wonka would have created if he switched over to the garden business.

P. Allen Smith
P. Allen Smith is an award-winning designer, gardening and lifestyle expert and host of two public television programs, Garden Home and Garden to Table, and the syndicated 30-minute show P. Allen Smith’s Garden Style. Smith is one of America’s most recognized and respected design experts, providing ideas and inspiration through multiple media venues. He is the author of the best-selling Garden Home series of books. Allen is also very active on social media such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Learn more at www.pallensmith.com.