Depending on your planting zone, it may be time to divide or transplant your sedum groundcover.

Good to Know

It’s time to prepare your garden for spring planting

Spring is just around the corner, and now is a great time to plan what to grow and how to prepare your garden for the planting season.

Mark Viette, horticulturist and host of In the Garden on Virginia Farm Bureau’s Real Virginia television program, said his first word of advice is “always wear gloves.” This will help gardeners avoid getting splinters or cuts when working in the dirt.

He also advised never working the soil when it’s too wet, as this will cause it to compact, preventing it from absorbing air and water.

peony bud with ant

Viette suggested home gardeners use the following checklist to spruce things up for spring:

  • Do a late-winter cleanup by removing dead foliage and fallen leaves from the garden. Throw away anything that’s had insect or disease problems. Other debris can be added to the compost pile for nutrients.

  • Cut back ornamental grasses. They’re great to leave for much of the winter to shelter wildlife but should be pruned to about 3 inches from the ground to encourage new growth. Watch this video to learn an easy way to trim back ornamental grasses.

  • Prune dead or diseased portions of shrubs and evergreens like boxwood or cypress. Remember not to prune healthy growth until it gets warmer.

  • Feed your garden with organic fertilizers. This ideally should be done after the garden cleanup and before mulching.

Watch this video: Horticulturalist Mark Viette offers suggustions for preparing your garden’s soil for planting in this clip from Real Virginia.

  • Remove plant debris such as old tomato vines from your vegetable garden. If you have fruit trees, throw away old fruit and leaves, as they often have fungi spores that can reinfect the trees.

  • Add dolomitic limestone and gypsum to the surface of the vegetable garden, if planning to grow tomatoes. This will help prevent issues with blossom end rot.

  • Add 1-3 inches of compost, if you like to use it in your garden. Work the compost into the ground using a garden fork or tiller.

  • Spray your fruit trees with an all-season horticultural oil spray to help mitigate pest and disease issues. Be sure to follow the label instructions.

  • Consider dividing and transplanting. Depending on your planting zone, February, March and April are good times to divide and transplant plants such as hostas, daylilies, liriope, Solomon’s seal and groundcovers like sedum.

  • Clean out birdhouses before spring nesting season begins. Keep your feathered friends comfortable by emptying old debris once a year, checking for mold and mildew and cleaning with a gentle diluted dish soap and warm water solution if needed.
Depending on your planting zone, February, March and April are a good time to divide and transplant plants like hostas, daylilies, liriope, Solomon’s seal and groundcovers like sedum. (Click to Tweet)

Chocolate adds extra-deliciousness to desserts

Add chocolate to your food this February to celebrate National Chocolate Lovers Month and make your treats even tastier.

Think about dipping cake in melted chocolate fondue, coating strawberries with chocolate or indulging in chocolate-covered peanuts or cashews.

Chocolate sometimes gets a bad rap because of its high calorie content, but some research has shown chocolate has certain health benefits. According to a study published in The Journal of Nutrition, chocolate consumption might help reduce low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels, known as the “bad fats.”

And scientists at Harvard Medical School suggest that drinking two cups of hot chocolate a day could help keep the brain healthy and reduce memory decline in older adults. The researchers found that hot chocolate helped improve blood flow to parts of the brain where it was needed.

So, treat yourself to a good-for-your cup of hot chocolate or some other chocolaty treat today!

Cherries covered in chocolate? Yes, please!

This easy-to-prepare chocolaty treat makes a thoughtful gift for Valentine's Day and will surely bring a smile to that special someone's face.

See Recipe
Seed Catalog Graphic Frontier Culture Museum Frontier Culture Museum

Seed catalogs evoke images, flavors of springtime

Just as travel magazines can transport us to verdant coastlines or tropical locales on dreary winter days, seed catalogs can evoke sights and smells of springtime for Virginia’s home gardeners.

Seed catalogs have sown inspiration in Virginia’s gardens and fields for more than a century—many published in Virginia, like W. Grossman & Son from the Petersburg Seed House, Wood’s Seeds from T.W. Wood & Sons in Richmond, and Slate’s Guide to Gardening from W.C. Slate Field and Garden Seeds in South Boston.

W.C. Slate Seed Catalog
W.H. Harrison Seed Catalog

Today, gardeners can still expect to find vegetable, herb and flower seeds, ranging from familiar heirlooms to newly developed varieties, in catalogs often delivered to mailboxes throughout the winter.

“There’s something magical about seeing beautiful photographs of colorful flowers, juicy fresh-picked vegetables, and all types of plants when the weather outside is gloomy and cold,” said Jeanne Grunert of Seven Oaks Farm in Prince Edward County.

“There’s something magical about seeing beautiful photographs of colorful flowers, juicy fresh-picked vegetables, and all types of plants when the weather outside is gloomy and cold.” (Click to Tweet)

A Virginia master gardener, author and garden blogger, Grunert grew up in a Long Island town called Floral Park. The town was founded in 1874 by a horticulturist named John Lewis Childs, who is credited with starting the first mail-order seed catalog business in the U.S.

“So, I love old seed catalogs,” Grunert said. “There’s even a collectible market for them. They used original drawings and paintings—really beautiful art.”

Online exhibits of more than 200,000 vintage seed catalogs can be viewed in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agriculture Library.