Phyllis Both color for BNR

Phyllis Both

“Snowing is an attempt of nature to make the dirty world look clean again.” — Mehmet Lidan

February is the month of love. For those who like to plants indoors, a few should be started this month.

Start tuberous begonias around the second week in February. In the third week, start seeds of impatiens, vinca, pansies and geraniums. The fourth week is a good time to start caladiums. There are only a few vegetables to start in February, and they are leeks and onions. Don’t be tempted to start tomatoes or any other vegetables because they get leggy and are time consuming. Tomatoes should not be started until the fourth week of March.

Remember when starting seeds to use a “seed starting mix” for soil. I recently met a few people who said they never start seeds indoors. The reason they were frustrated is because they used potting mix. Potting mix tends to contain a fungus that causes seeds to collapse at the base. This is called “damping off.” It is a good time of year to check seeds leftover from last year. It is easy to do. Place a few seeds between moist paper towels for several days. If they start to sprout, they are viable. Do not use seeds with poor germination rates.

Those who love parsnips should not bother saving the seeds, since they do not have a long shelf life. They are biennials so a few plants can be kept in the garden over winter. In the late spring, they will form seeds that can be planted. A biennial is a plant that requires two growing seasons to form seeds then its life cycle is over. Only open pollinated seeds (not hybrids) will form seeds that are true to their parent plant. Carrots, beets, Swiss chard, parsley, cabbage, celery, kale, leeks, onions, rutabaga, turnips, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, and cauliflower also are biennials.

Why not make a point to collect seeds? It is fun and can save you money which is always a good thing.

This also is the time of year to spray fruit trees with a dormant oil spray to control scale and over-wintering pests. When inspecting trees, be especially vigilant for egg clusters on trunk and branches.

Contact Phyllis Both by email at or by telephone on Monday mornings at the Sauk County University of Wisconsin-Extension office, 608-355-3253.