Start getting ready now for a great garden this spring

Published Mar 12, 2017 at 9:00am

Winter is a tough time but it’s a good time to get a jump on your 2017 garden.

Magazines are introducing new plants and catalogs are ready for mailing. Here are some things you can do now to get you thinking warm, sunny thoughts!  

Garden catalogs

January and February is when most seed and plant companies get their new product lines out.

Many companies have free catalogs; others charge a nominal fee.

These fees are well worth it; think of a garden catalog as a low cost horticultural textbook providing a wealth of information.

There are also many on-line sources, and many companies offer on-line only specials.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac website,, offers a list of garden mail order sources.

Consider using the catalogs to help you with your local shopping experience!

Here are some examples of what you’ll find in a catalog:  

  • Days to Harvest: Important for vegetable growers, this is the number of days from when the plants are set out into the garden for that plant to bear fruit.
  • Disease Resistance: Good catalogs will explain disease resistance specifics.
  • Determinate/Indeterminate: Growing tomatoes? Determinate tomato plants grow to a certain size, fruit all at once, and then stop growing. These are good choices for growing in containers. Indeterminate tomatoes are more vining and continue to grow and fruit until frost and will need to be staked or caged.
  • Start Indoors: These are seeds that need to be started under lights or in a greenhouse. Direct Sow seeds can go directly into the ground when the growing conditions are ready.  

Inventory supplies

It’s still a bit early to start most seeds; but it’s not too early to order them and to check on your seed starting supplies. Start collecting your seedling containers. Many household items such as plastic salad or yogurt containers (provided they are clean and have holes for drainage) will work fine. If your house is cool, consider buying an inexpensive heating mat. Your seeds will need light; add grow lights to your list. Create a list of everything else you’ll need when the garden centers open.

Prepare your equipment

Be sure all your garden tools are cleaned and sharpened. Bacteria which causes some plant diseases can overwinter on dirty tools, causing you to inadvertently contaminate other plants.

Sharp tools make for clean cuts; if you can’t sharpen tools yourself, there are stores available to do it for you.

Check on your stored plants

Check on any tubers you may have overwintered, such as dahlias.

They should be stored in a dry, cool, frost-proof area, at about 50 degrees. If the tubers are dry, the temperature is too high. Wrapping the clumps in newspapers or packing them in barrels or boxes of peat moss, vermiculite, or dry sawdust, works well.

Look for disease or shriveling. Cut off any diseased parts; if any are soft or moldy, destroy them. If the tubers have shriveled, place them in a bucket of water overnight to plump them up. Allow them to dry thoroughly before returning them to storage.  

Begin planning

Now is the time to collect your thoughts on what you want to accomplish in the garden this year, what areas need improvement, or what plants you want to add. Capture it all by starting a garden journal.

If you’re lucky enough to be able to take a trip, get your gardening fix now by visiting the many spring flower shows in the northeast such as the Philadelphia Flower Show in March. With all of this in mind, before you know it, you’ll be able to get out there and dig in!

Visit our website at or if you have questions, call the Horticulture Hotline at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oneida County, 315 736 3394, extension 127.