By Majo Bates, Washington County Master Gardener
I’m not a meteorologist, but I am writing this article on a very cold day in January 2024!
Most of us who have a vegetable gardens or flowers in the spring want to start uncovering our perennials and vines before or at least by the end of April. Watching the weather reports, I’m pretty sure Southern Illinois and the rest of the state may have rough spring weather until the end of April. One–digit-degree or low two-digit-degree figures are too low to remove leaves, mulch, and such around our perennials and vines until the weather clears of frost warnings. We can do some things in our basements, garages, greenhouses, or sheds to prepare for spring.
We can clean all our pots to have them ready to plant in. (Or did you do that last fall?)
Let’s paint some of those pots and get them all color-coordinated. What a fun project!
Oh! You might want to build a window box! That’s a great idea, too! A window box can be as simple as a shelf mounted below a windowsill that holds several pots. It can be self-contained as a large rectangular box attached with brackets. If you make your wooden window box from a researched design or instructions, a tip is to use quality lumber that has aged naturally.
The thicker the wood, the greater its insulating ability will be to keep the soil’s temperature and moisture more constant. Be sure to have one-inch drainage holes in the bottom, and it should be hung with rustproof brackets, screws or nails. The length will depend on the width of the window. You can also use a less expensive grade of lumber and paint it to match the window trim. Or paint it a loud color you love — it will certainly stand out! My husband has constructed and designed a beautiful window box for me, and I’ve had it for years.
Now let’s think about hanging baskets or hanging pots. We still have time to clean them and paint them, too. Last fall I threw most of mine away. They were getting old and cracking, and some of the hanging devices were broken. (You can’t keep them forever.) I prefer lightweight hanging baskets or those that have good drainage.
Winter is also a good time to sit down with paper and pencil to decide what plants you intend to purchase and where. Map out what perennials you need to divide and where you will plant them. And don’t forget that spring is an excellent time to visit your local greenhouses, plant stores, and nurseries to look around. (I always end up purchasing some plants! Yippee!)
If you need help with your spring ideas, please get in touch with your U of I Extension Office in our local counties: Bond, Clinton, Jefferson, Marion, and Washington; they are here to help you. If you are interested in learning about becoming a Master Gardener or about the individual session training classes, including topics on botany, soils, insects, fruits, vegetables, lawns, trees, annuals, perennials, and diseases offered in 2024 please contact our office in Salem at 618-548-1446 or you can email Horticulture Educator Chris Lueking at email@example.com for a schedule of sessions.