Heirloom Expert: How to Cure a Gardener’s Cabin Fever

Do you ever get a little stir crazy with cabin fever while waiting to get back in the garden? There are some ways to get in the gardening spirit in winter.

winter plots

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Dear Doug,

I was glad to get a break from the garden; that lasted about a month, and now I’ve already got cabin fever. Do you have any suggestions on some garden jobs while the ground is covered in snow? I love to experiment, so I’m up for anything. Thanks in advance for your help.

Diana from Pennsylvania

Diana, I’m in Pennsylvania, too, here’s a few fun things to think about to help get your gardening fix and cure cabin fever.

Very small seeds like begonias or impatiens are surface sowed indoors at the end of January. It’s a little more complicated than the way we plant tomato or pepper seeds. Start with some planting mix from a good garden center. Moisten it first before filling your containers. Put the mix in a tub or tray and add water. Get your hands nice and dirty, mixing the two together until the mixture is moist but not dripping.

Put the moist mix into containers with drainage and gently pat it down. Sprinkle the seeds on top of the mix. I like to spray the seeds softly with water and then push them into the mix with a small piece of wood.

Now cover the containers with clear plastic and put them under a strong light source like fluorescent shop lights. Hang them on chains and keep the lights just an inch from the top of the containers.

It won’t be long until the tiny seeds sprout. Now you’ll have something to care for during the off season.

Once those impatiens get to a decent size after a month or so, another fun project is taking some cuttings. Now you can make lots of plants from just one. You’ll need some vermiculite and rooting hormone. Moisten the vermiculite and fill some six packs with the material. With sharp pruners cut some of the stems of the plant about an inch from the end. Remove any flowers or buds if they have formed and the lower leaves. Dip the cut end in rooting hormone and push it into the vermiculite. Cover the container in clear plastic and put it under the lights. In a couple weeks gently pull on the cutting. If it resists, it’s rooted and can be transplanted into a good planting mix. Now you’ve got another project to keep you busy until spring.

Doug Oster, contributing editor


Doug is the Home and Garden editor of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and co-host of The Organic Gardeners on KDKA radio. Doug’s book, Tomatoes, Garlic, Basil, is on sale at www.DougOster.com