Garden calendar: For the week of March 3
Gardening and pruning classes: There are some Dane County UW-Extension classes you may be interested in coming up. I will be holding my annual shade tree and ornamental shrub pruning class at the Dane County UW-Extension Teaching Garden, 5201 Fen Oak Dr. The workshop will be 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. March 16. There will be an indoor program about proper pruning techniques, then the class will go outside for a hands-on pruning session on shrubs and trees. I’ll be joined by members of the Dane County Tree Board who will help guide the outdoor hands-on pruning. Wear your woolies if it is cold outside, and bring a pruning shears and/or loppers if possible. The program cost is $10. You can register online at https://dane.uwex.edu or by mailing a check to the Dane County UW-Extension Office, 5201 Fen Oak Dr. #138, Madison, WI 53718.
Our Green Thumb Gardening series at the Dane County Extension Office began Feb. 21, but there are still many classes on Thursday nights 6:30-9 p.m. for a cost of $12 each. Topics remaining are: Garden landscape design on March 7, hot composting and vermiculture on March 14, native plants for gardens and pollinators on March 21, managing vegetable garden pests and diseases on March 28, backyard chickens on April 4, flower gardening on April 11 and lawn care on April 18.
Seed starting: While March 3 is too early to start most vegetable seeds, it’s not too early to make sure your supplies and equipment will be ready to go for the third or fourth week in March. Check your grow-lights, surge protectors and timers (if you use them) to be sure everything is in working order.
Check on your supply of seed-starting mix — don’t use potting soil meant for houseplants; use a mix labeled for starting seeds for the best results. These media are fluffy and fine-textured with good water-holding capacity and light-weight, so germinating seeds don’t have any problems establishing good root systems. Seed starting mix can be purchased at most local garden centers.
Also check that you have a good supply of either plastic bedding-plant cell packs, peat pots or re-purposed containers. Some people save clear plastic salad containers, yogurt or margarine containers, egg cartons or even toilet paper or paper towel cardboard insert cylinders (cut to about 3” in height and lined with a paper towel or a partial sheet of newspaper to make sure the media doesn’t fall out) to use as seed-starting containers. As long as the items are clean and you poke holes for drainage in the bottom, any of these are fine to re-purpose for seed starting.
If you use a seed-starting heat mat for stimulating the germination of warm-season crops like peppers or tomatoes, check the mat to make sure it is still in good condition and safe to use. Never use heating pads meant for people to start seeds. They are not water-proof, are not meant to be on for long periods of time and are a fire hazard.
You may want to purchase an inexpensive soil thermometer to check that your seed-starting heat mat is functioning optimally and not running too hot or too cold. Seeds have temperature ranges at which they grow best; some will not germinate well if it is too cold (for example, tomatoes, peppers and eggplant), so if you are starting seeds under lights in a cold basement, you may need to either choose seeds that germinate at cooler temperatures or think about purchasing a heat mat. In any case, it is prime seed-purchasing season and all the garden centers should be stocked up, so have at it!