February 2021
Winter Seed Sowing
It’s winter and cold and the snow is falling. Time to start planting those vegetable and flower seeds outside in New York. Yes, you can plant outside but in a very special way. Winter sowing is a technique gardeners use to start growing seeds outdoors during the winter months.

Winter sowing works best for plants that are cold tolerant or even require a period of cold in order to germinate. When you are looking at seed descriptions, look for words like cold tolerant, cool season, hardy annual, perennial, sow in autumn, sow in early spring or self-sows These words indicate the best seed candidates for winter sowing during January or February.

This is not a good method to use with heat-loving crops such as tomatoes, peppers, squash and basil. Wait until spring (March) and warmer temperatures before sowing those.
Here are the basic steps to winter sowing:

  1. Reclaim from your recycling bin clear or transparent plastic containers such as 1-gallon milk or juice jugs and 2-liter soda bottles. Remove the cap as it will not be needed. Be sure to use only clear or translucent containers in order to allow exposure to sunlight.
  2. Cut jugs and bottles three-quarters of the way around to create a hinged opening.
  3. Puncture 4-5 holes in the bottom of the container to allow for good drainage.
  4. Fill the bottom of the container with purchased potting soil. The soil layer should be 3-4 inches in depth. Avoid using home compost or garden soil; it may contain weed seeds. Water thoroughly and let the water drain through.
  5. Plant your seeds according to the package instructions, one type of seed in each container.
  6. Close up the container securely with strong tape, such as duct or packing tape. Label the container with the name of the seeds and planting date. You may want to also include a label inside the container.
  7. Set your container outside in a sunny location. The cap opening will allow for air circulation and water entry.
You are essentially creating a small cloche or greenhouse that provides a protected environment for the seeds. The natural freezing and thawing process loosens the seed coats to aid in germination. Your seeds will sprout when the temperatures and daylight are ideal for them. A note about watering. You will see condensation form on the inside of your containers on sunny days when the temperature is above freezing. This moisture trickles down to keep the soil medium consistently moist. Water and snow will enter the small opening at the top of your container. If you do not see condensation forming on warm sunny days, open the container and check the soil. You may need to add more water periodically.

You will have to monitor the seedlings as they start to grow and the temperatures warm up. On warm days, flip back the top to expose the seedlings to sunlight and if the nights are frosty, close the containers again in the evening. Once your garden soil is workable in the spring, you can transplant your seedlings into their permanent location. There is no need to harden off the seedlings since they will already be acclimated to the outdoors.

Additional Resources:
WinterSown.org | Winter Sown Educational
Successful Winter Sowing | Penn State Extension
What is Winter Sowing? | University of Illinois Extension Master Gardeners
Ornamental Plants | University of Maryland Extension, Home & Garden Information Center

Photo credits: C. Carignan
Valentine’s Day is upon us, and love is in the air!
During the Victorian era, people conveyed their feelings on Valentine’s Day through the different meanings of flowers. Nothing conveys warm feelings like cut flowers, especially roses. However, their beauty doesn’t last forever. For a lasting gift consider giving the gift of a plant!

A quick look at the meanings of other flowers will introduce many more associated with love. The choice of a Valentine's gift that expresses your feelings is up to you!

Source: National Initiative for Consumer Horticulture (NICH)
Celebrating Black History Month
Horticulturists, Gardeners, Farmers, and More
As technology and research have advanced in the past 200 years, the way we approach farming has changed significantly. Countless inventions, ideas, and practices from important figures in history have increased productivity and efficiency on the farm. In celebration of Black History month, we are highlighting seven major agricultural contributions from African American farmers, horticulturists, and inventors. Their contributions have revolutionized the way our food system functions today. (Poughkeepsie Farm Project)

Photo: George Washington Carver at work in a greenhouse (via the Smithsonian Magazine)
Get Outdoors and Participate in the
24th Annual Great Backyard Bird Count - Starts TODAY!
The Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) is a fun event for bird watchers of all ages and abilities, from beginners to experts. The 24th annual GBBC will be held Friday, February 12, through Monday, February 15, 2021. Participants are needed! To help, you will need to count birds for at least 15 minutes (or longer if you wish) for one or more days of the four-day event. You can participate from your backyard, or anywhere in the world.

Each checklist submitted during the GBBC helps researchers at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society learn more about how birds are doing and how to protect them. Last year, almost 270,000 people participated in the GBBC. Let’s top that number this year! For more information or to submit checklists visit the GBBC website.

Photo of barred owl by Fred Couse.
Growing Dwarf Citrus
Growing Citrus in containers can often bring a little slice of paradise to the garden and home. Although this is not a new practice, citrus fruits were a rare luxury in most of the United States during the 1800’s. Citrus trees were often cultivated on seafaring ships to help prevent scurvy. Up until about 1930’s, most citrus grown in containers were reserved for the wealthy homes. However, the revival of home citrus gardening is now a pleasure that can be enjoyed by many people, and many different types of citrus are available through retail garden centers and online marketplaces.

DEC's Annual Tree and Shrub Seedling Sale Now Open
DEC's Colonel William F. Fox Memorial Saratoga Tree Nursery has announced its annual spring seedling sale, which is open to the public and runs until May 12. Each year, the tree nursery sells dozens of low-cost, New York-grown tree and shrub species for conservation plantings across the state.

The tree nursery has more than 50 conifer and hardwood species available in bundles of 25 or more, plus several mixed-species packets for those looking for a variety. For more information, including how to order, visit the Spring Seedling Sale webpage on DEC's website. Some species sell out early, so we encourage you to place orders by phone for the most up-to-date availability information.

Know a teacher or youth club leader who may be interested in free trees to plant with their class? We are now accepting applications for the tree nursery's School Seedling Program. From now until March 31, schools and youth education organizations across New York State may apply to receive up to 50 free tree or shrub seedlings to plant with students.
Upcoming Zoom Events
Registration Required
Be on the lookout for your confirmation email with the Zoom link to access the class!
Raised Bed Gardening
Thursday, February 18, 7 PM - 8 PM
Hosted by Rush Public Library
Learn the key steps to ensure a successful vegetable garden as well as cover planting and harvesting techniques, the advantages of raised bed gardening, and the top 10 vegetables for home gardening.

Presented by MG, Lauren Caruso.
Identifying and Reporting Spotted Lanternfly and Tree of Heaven
Tuesday, February 23, 1 PM - 2:30 PM
Hosted by iMapInvasives
We need help from citizen scientists throughout New York State to keep a lookout for the highly invasive spotted lanternfly and its favored host, tree-of-heaven. Join this webinar to learn identification tricks and reporting protocol.
Take Action Against Hemlock Woolly Adelgid (Part 1) – Impacts, ID, & Citizen Science
Thursday, February 25, 3 PM - 4:30 PM
Hosted by Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program

Learn all about this damaging invasive insect, understand how to identify HWA in the field, and gain the skills you need to take action to protect local forests. Part 2 of this Citizen Science Training will be held on Wednesday, March 3rd from 10 AM to 11 AM. Participants have the option to join live via Zoom or watch recorded webinars to custom fit scheduling needs.
Herb Gardening Workshop
Thursday, March 18, 7 PM - 8 PM
Hosted by Chili Public Library
Herbs can transform ordinary meals into something special. Incorporating herbs into your garden design adds color, fragrances, and interest to your landscape. Participants will learn the benefits of herb growing from their beauty and use in cooking, to their medicinal uses and healing properties. 

Presented by Master Gardener, Lois Breen. 
Speakers Bureau - Book a Master Gardener Presentation
Master Gardeners are available to present horticultural lectures for your club or organization. We are also willing to present in nursing home facilities and will format the presentation to abilities.

Presentations are 45 minutes in length and conclude with an additional 15 minute question and answer period. Please note – some presentations have limited availability throughout the year. All presentations have a speaking charge of $50, payable to Cornell Cooperative Extension of Monroe County.

Gardening Helpline at Your Service
When plant, insect and wildlife problems happen in the garden, who can home gardeners call? A team of trained Master Gardeners are available to help answer gardening and pest questions, and solve problems using current research-based information.

By calling the helpline, you’ll find yourself in contact with someone who will help identify the cause of your problem, or give an answer to your question using Cornell’s experience and research knowledge. If the issue is addressed in one of our many factsheets, it will be sent to you for your reference.

Contact us: (585) 753-2555 or monroemg@cornell.edu

Gardening Helpline Hours:
November – March: Monday, Wednesday, Friday, 9 AM - 12 PM
April – October: Monday - Friday, 9 AM - 12 PM       
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