The days are short and the weather has been fairly dreary here in the Treasure Valley. There are, however, things that you can do now to get ready for “the season.”I’ll give you a list of things to keep your gardening spirit encouraged. Consider this your winter to-do list.

Use your garden notebooks and photographs to plan and calculate what you’ll want (and maybe need) for the new garden season.

If you’re going to order seeds, do it as soon as possible for the best selection. Popular and new varieties can sell out quickly and you’ll be sorry. Seed companies may send a substitute variety if they’ve sold out of the seeds you ordered. If you don’t want a substitute, be sure to mark that on the order form.

Clean up your tools. Sand the wood handles and rub them down with boiled linseed oil. This oil is not really boiled but has additives to encourage faster drying. Make sure it’s the boiled linseed oil or it will take a week or more to dry. Sand down the blade of your shovels, trowels and other metal tools and oil them. A bucket filled with sand, then filled with oil is a great way to keep the metal parts of your tools lubricated. Just move the blade up and down in the oily sand.

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Sharpen the edges of your shovels and hoes to make your work easier.

Planting seeds? Be sure to use clean containers. If you’re reusing containers from last season, wash in soapy water, rinse and then rinse again in a 10% bleach solution (1 part bleach/10 parts water). Use a soilless potting soil to avoid some of the fungal issues associated with seed starting.

Remember our last AVERAGE frost date is May 10th. Count backwards from this date when trying to determine seed starting times.

Check your summer bulbs that are in storage. Remove any that are decayed. Lightly mist them if they are beginning to shrivel and are showing signs of dryness.

Wash the dust off your houseplants. Put them in the shower and use lukewarm water to clean up the leaves. This procedure will also flush any fertilizer salts from the soil. Let the water drain well from the soil and be sure the catch basin does not contain any standing water. Your plants will take a deep breath and thank you.

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If you notice broken branches on trees or shrubs from winter storms, prune them promptly to avoid further damage by torn bark, etc. Make clean cuts to a lateral branch or to the branch collar.

Continue to feed the birds and provide fresh water. If you don’t feed them, consider it. They add enjoyment to the winter days.

Towards the beginning of February, you can take cuttings of pussy willow, quince, forsythia, and other early blooming shrubs for indoor forcing. Place the cut branches in a vase of warm water and place in bright but indirect light. It will make spring seem right around the corner, which it will be before we know it.

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