In the Garden with Jackye


Most of us associate red, pink and purple with Valentine’s Day. You can thrill your gardening valentine with these colors without the calories of chocolate. Pick up seed packets of red lettuce or mustard, pink cosmos, red and pink zinnias, or red sunflowers. Add a new red hummingbird feeder to the garden. Check out new gloves and tools in red — as well as pink, blue, green, yellow, and orange.

Thrill your gardening valentine with soil amendments, such as compost, rotted leaves (if you can find them), manure, bark, alfalfa meal, pecan shells, cotton compost, or cotton meal for spring garden beds. Organic fertilizer will come in handy as the season progresses, as well. Vegetable gardens and flower beds benefit from these amendments. If flower beds have spring seeds or seedlings, organic materials should not be spread too thickly, so seeds and seedlings are not buried so deeply they cannot grow.

Organic materials applied at this time of year begin decomposing and improving the soil long before plants and seeds are added. Also, with the hard work out of the way during the cool times, I am ready for spring planting on the first sunny day after the soil warms up enough to germinate seeds and encourage the roots of seedlings.

A useful (or inspiring) gardening book will make winter woes disappear into fantasies of summer gardens. I particularly like the books from Storey Press or Timber Press. Especially look for books on desert gardening or books related to Southwest gardening. If your favorite gardener has a special interest, you likely will find a book that addresses that interest.

Since there are few outdoor plants available to give as gifts at this time of year, a gift certificate will be greatly appreciated by any gardener. Spring has so many temptations to entice the gardener, so it’s is delightful to have extra money for irresistible spring purchases — from plants to planters to garden accents.

Most gardeners also are weather watchers. If your gardener does not already have a weather station to keep track of high and low temperatures, he or she will find it very useful. I find a soil thermometer to be very practical at this time of year. Knowing the temperature of the soil helps me time seed planting for optimum germination.

Remember, we need more than warm days to encourage our gardens. The soil also needs to warm up. Most summer seeds will not germinate when the soil is too cold, and, if planted too early, can actually rot.

Sure candy and roses will be appreciated. However, most gardeners will remember the compost delivery or the terrific rose gloves far longer than the cut flowers. Visit the local garden stores and see what terrific gift ideas they have available. Your gardener will appreciate your efforts.

Jackye S. Meinecke is a freelance writer, garden consultant and garden designer. For more information, e-mail or call 323-0903.