Winter brings a long layoff for gardeners — too long for some.
There are only so many gardening catalogs to page through. After a while, you just want to get your hands dirty. We have some suggestions.
Here are some gardening activities you can pursue even when the temperature doesn't break freezing. They might not fill the void until spring, but they're enough to keep you busy on a few chilly weekends.
Seed a lawn: You read that right. Believe it or not, winter is a good time to spread grass seed. It's the second-best time, after fall, argues Denny McKeown, a Cincinnati-area nurseryman and author, whose books include The Gardening Book for Ohio and Month-By-Month Gardening in Ohio.
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Melting snow assures good seed-to-soil contact, McKeown said, and the freeze-thaw cycle heaves the soil and works the seeds down into it. The seeds will germinate when the soil warms, and that soil will be moist enough to supply the water that's needed as the seeds sprout and grow, he said.
Some people advise spreading the seed on top of the snow, but McKeown doesn't recommend that: "You don't know where the grass seed's going," he said.
Instead, he suggests spreading seed when the snow has melted. Remove any fallen leaves or debris, and just spread the seed onto the existing lawn or bare soil.
Andrew Pratt, grounds manager at Cleveland Botanical Garden, cautions that you might lose some seeds to birds or rot. But McKeown sees that as a bonus. Most people plant too much seed, he said, so that's just a way for nature to do the thinning.
Do some weeding
OK, weeding isn't most gardeners' favorite chore. But weeding now can save you work in the warmer months, said Denise Ellsworth, a horticultural educator with the Ohio State University Extension's Summit County office.
Weeds can pop up in your yard and garden even in winter, she said. When a thaw exposes them, get out and pull them. Many of them can flower and set seed even in the cold, she said, so removing them as quickly as you can will thwart their spread.
Plant a terrarium
Terrariums — gardens in glass containers — are back in style, said Betty Howell, co-owner of House of Plants Florist in Akron. So if you can't plant a garden outdoors, why not create a miniature one indoors?
Terrariums are no longer limited to aquariums with lids, Tovah Martin writes in her book The New Terrarium. Vases, bowls, glass domes called cloches and even canning jars can make good containers.
Terrariums don't have to be closed, either, Martin says. Even a container with an open mouth will contain humidity to a degree.
If you use an open container, Howell one with an opening that's 5 or 6 inches wide — big enough to fit a hand inside.
Choose plants that like shade, tolerate high humidity and won't grow too large, Martin advises.
You don't have to limit yourself to houseplants. Nursery-propagated wildflowers are a good choice, Martin says. So are woodland plants, such as moss or ferns that you collect outdoors, provided they're not endangered and you have permission to take them.
You can plant them directly in the terrarium or in pots. A single small pot elevated on a base of seashells or glass beads can have an elegant look.
If you plant directly in the container, Martin recommends putting a layer of small pebbles or gravel mixed with activated charcoal below the soil. If you like, you can top-dress the soil with more pebbles.
Upkeep is minimal. Water very lightly, remove yellowed or damaged leaves, get rid of mold as soon as you see it, and rotate the terrarium occasionally, so all parts are exposed to light. You don't need to fertilize, Martin said.