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Gardening with Laurie: Start seeds indoors for spring

By By Laurie Garretson
Jan. 10, 2013 at midnight
Updated Jan. 9, 2013 at 7:10 p.m.

Laurie Garretson

The new year brings a lot of chores for gardeners.

The cold, damp, cloudy, windy weather during the past several weeks has not been conducive to outdoor activities.

One chore that can be accomplished indoors is starting seeds. It's a bit risky to start your tomato and pepper seeds outdoors at this time, so start them inside.

A west window sill could be a good spot to start the seedlings, or you can start them under grow lights.

Make sure to keep the lights about 2 to 3 inches above the seedlings. Raise the lights as the seedlings grow.

Always remember to rotate indoor-grown seedlings, especially those near a window, to encourage strong, straight stem growth.

Outside, keep all bare soil around trees, ground covers, shrubs, vegetable gardens and flowerbeds well mulched. This will help keep moisture and heat in the soil and help suppress weed growth.

Never pile mulch around the trunk of trees and shrubs. This could eventually lead to diseases and insect problems.

Bring the mulch out away from these plants by a couple of inches.

While your lawn is dormant, you can spray any cool-season weeds with an orange oil-vinegar solution. This solution is not harmful to you or the soil. To make, mix 1 gallon of strong vinegar (20 percent or higher) and add 2 ounces of orange oil. Use this mixture full strength.

For stubborn nut grass problems, mix a solution of 1/2 to 3/4 of a cup of liquid molasses in 1 gallon of water and drench the area. One gallon should cover about 100 feet.

Repeat this process every couple of weeks. Be careful not to get this solution on desirable vegetation. With time, the molasses will rot the nuts that sprout these pesky weeds.

This is also the time to treat for scale problems on camellias, hollies, euonymus and any other scale-prone plants. You can use a horticultural oil or mix 2 ounces of orange oil in 1 gallon of water and spray the entire plant until the solution is dripping off the leaves.

For houseplants that have mealy bugs, scale or spider mites, use a mixture of 1 teaspoon of the orange oil to 1 gallon of water. Spray this mixture on the plants every two to three weeks or until the pests are gone. Be sure to feed these plants once a month.

This is the best time of the year to add any new evergreens and deciduous trees to your landscape. For best results, stick with native or drought-tolerant plants.

Planting now, while most plants are dormant or semi-dormant, will allow the plant to start to produce a root system. Starting them now is easier on the plant, and it gives them a head start for spring.

Usually our coldest temperatures are still just ahead for us - not that there's anything usual about the weather. Keep in mind that dry soils can lead to freeze-damaged plants, whereas well-watered plants are better able to handle stressful conditions.

Until next time, let's try to garden with nature, and not against it, and maybe all our weeds will become wildflowers.

Laurie Garretson is a Victoria gardener and nursery owner. Send your gardening questions to laurie@vicad.com or in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77902.

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