Ann Wright: What to do your garden ‘in the calm between the storms’ |

Ann Wright: What to do your garden ‘in the calm between the storms’

In contrast to last year’s dry January, with the plentiful rain this year, it is more difficult to get out into our gardens.

However, there are many things that can be done in the calm between storms.

Here are some garden tips for this wet January:

• Start planning landscape or vegetable gardens now.

Draw out plans on paper and take notes about what you want to plant.

Plan to attend the Master Gardener workshop, “Landscape Planning on Paper” on from 10 a.m. to noon Feb. 20 at the Grass Valley Elks Lodge, 109 So. School St.

• If a vegetable garden is in the plan, consider what you like to eat and peruse seed catalogs or local nurseries for seeds to start indoors.

Starting from seed can be an economical way to grow a larger selection of vegetables than can be found in nurseries as transplants, or “starts”.

• Carefully review seed packets, looking for disease resistance, germination rates and days to maturity.

Look for local sources for seed adapted to our climate.

• Seeds can be started indoors now.

To avoid “damping off” — which is sudden death and withering or collapse of seedlings, be sure to use clean decontaminated pots and “pasteurized” seed starting mix.

(Damping off is caused by fungal-like pathogens found in soil.)

Plant seeds shallowly or as recommended on the seed packet, offer good ventilation and do not overwater the germinating seed and seedlings.

• Seed starting mix may be purchased locally or made at home using equal parts of vermiculite, peat moss and perlite.

Alternatively, a mix of one part garden soil, one part sand and one part sphagnum peat moss can be sterilized by placing the mix in a 200 degree oven until the soil reaches 180 degrees for 30 minutes.

(This may take about 2 hours.)

• Once the seeds are planted, keep the soil moist by watering with a spray bottle.

Maintain the minimum germination temperature listed with seed information.

An electric warming mat may be used to keep the pots warm.

• Provide at least six hours of bright light.

If using florescent lights, use full-spectrum cool white grow lights.

• Maintain good air circulation and carefully thin unwanted sprouts by pinching off at the stem.

This will avoid pulling up other fragile roots.

• Make sure you label what you have planted.

• Review when the last frost date is for your area.

The Master Gardener’s Western Nevada County Gardening Guide offers frost dates and growing seasons. Actual last freeze dates may vary yearly.

In general, our last spring freeze date (last 32º F minimum temperature) may fall anywhere between March 10 and May 10, depending on elevation and microclimates, with lower elevations having the benefit of longer growing seasons with final freeze dates around March 10.

• Remember that soil temperature matters!

For direct seeding outside in the garden, wait until the soil warms to recommended temperatures.

A soil thermometer will help determine when the soil is warm enough to start seed outside.

Optimum soil temperature for germinating summer vegetables ranges from 75º to 95º F; seeds for cool season crops (planted in the fall or early spring before soil has warmed) will not germinate if the soil temperature is less than 40º F.

For more information about Nevada County Master Gardener’s activities, or to ask a question check the website at

Master Gardeners are also available at the “Hotline” office at the Grass Valley Veterans Memorial Building, 255 S. Auburn St. Hours are 9 a.m. to noon on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The Hotline number is 530-273-0919.

Western Nevada County Gardening Guides are available for sale at local nurseries, bookstores and at our office.

Ann Wright is a Nevada County Master Gardener.

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