Gardening; Classes great cure for Cabin Fever; sign up underway

The holidays, such as they were, are behind us, and it’s time to start getting organized for winter garden events and seed planting.

As with everything else, the Spokane County Master Gardener Foundation is putting its annual Cabin Fever seminars online, and registration is open. This year, the 12 workshops will be on Monday and Wednesday evenings between Feb. 24 and March 17.

The keynote speaker on Feb. 24 will be Karen Chapman, a Seattle-based horticulturist, award-winning designer, author and presenter whose topic is “How to Create Captivating Gardens” using garden design ideas from her garden and those of her clients. Chapman will also teach a class on how to coexist with deer.

Other topics in the series include pruning, growing vegetables, container gardening, gardening for birds, landscape water management and alternatives to lawn. The schedule is such that you can attend all of the workshops over the course of the event. On Friday evenings, the speakers will hold chat sessions where you can ask questions to learn more. Cost for the event is $50 .

Good time to order seeds

Seed starting is going to sneak up on us sooner than we think. With that in mind, it’s time to get seed orders in so you’ll be ready. Seeds like peppers that take a long time to germinate will need to be planted around the middle of February. Some peppers can take three weeks to germinate so that getting them started early will give them enough growing time to grow to size for planting out in mid- to late May. Tomatoes and eggplant will need to be planted around the first week of March. Early March is also the time to seed cool season crops like lettuce, cabbage and spinach under lights for planting out in early April. You will be eating your first garden salad by mid-May about the time you should seed another crop of lettuce in the garden.

Seeds are best started under lights in a room that stays around 60 to 70 degrees. I use our furnace room with 4-foot LED shop lights on chains set on a 14-hour timer. The lights will need to be within an inch or 2 of the tops of the plants. My rack is a simple, four-level wire rack with two lights to a shelf. I plant seeds in a good-quality potting soil in 3- to 4-inch square pots that are then set in a plastic planting flat with no drainage holes. I don’t want to get water on the lights below. I use a watering can to water the plants when they need it. Once the plants have their first true leaves, they will need a dose of half-strength fertilizer every other watering. As the plants grow, the lights will need to be raised to keep them right above the plant tops.

Once it gets close to planting time, the seedlings should be taken outdoors during the day for a week or so to harden off and get used to the outdoor conditions.