News for those who live, work and play in the Santiam Canyon

Time to get a head start on spring

Linn County Master Gardener

By Diane Hyde
OSU Linn County Master Gardener

Tired of winter yet? Get a head start on Spring with a few garden tasks between rain showers. Getting organized for outdoor activity improves the mental state, knowing that Spring’s annual new beginning is just ahead. Late winter is a great time to get some garden tasks done, with growth pretty much slowed down by the cold temperatures. Bundle up, put on the boots and enjoy the occasional sunshine. Get some Vitamin D and mark some annual to-do jobs off the list.

Yard clean-up seems almost futile when the next storm will make another mess. But the new mess will be less daunting because it isn’t piled on top of the current wind-fall debris. Clean off the driveway and enjoy the temporary tidiness. Rake or blow the leaves into growing areas to serve as mulch, protecting plants from the freezes in the next couple of months. Berry bushes especially appreciate an inch-deep blanket and may reward with better, earlier fruit. Wait just a bit to fertilize, since new growth may not survive coming frosts. 

Winter is a good time to weed, saving time for other things when the growing season starts. Be sure to get the roots too, easier when the soil is wet. Get the dandelions before they bloom; they’re already forming buds in anticipation of better days. Garden beds can be covered with light-blocking tarps or cardboard to kill emerging weeds until time to prep for planting. 

Clean up the potting area and greenhouse or cold frames if you have them. Stage everything to get ready for spring planting. Do the tools need cleaning? Lightly oil metal parts, sand and paint the handles a bright color you can see when you forget where you left them. Sharpen the mower blades and stock up of string for the trimmer. Clean off the crusty mat of old dried grass and weeds on the undersides of the weed whackers.

Plant some winter flowers. Pansies, violets, primroses and cyclamen are available and will add some welcome color. Brighten up the entryway! Some flower seeds can even be scattered outdoors now. Many flowers like a period of cold, wet weather to germinate. Plants that self-sow in nature drop their seeds in fall and winter to sprout in spring. Freezing and thawing in cold moist soil breaks down the seed coats. Hormones keep the seeds from sprouting until conditions are right (unless the seed just rots and becomes compost). Some flower seeds that can be winter sown are columbine, foxglove, hollyhocks, forget-me-nots, lavender, alyssum, lupine, bachelor button, coreopsis, poppies, delphinium and larkspur. Scatter the seeds uncovered on a well-draining “nursery” bed of weed-free soil and transplant them later. Or start them in pots left out in the rain. Over-sow because they all might not make it. If you prefer starting them indoors, to trick them into sprouting put them in a bag with some damp soil in the refrigerator where they will stay under 45o for at least two months. Summer-flowering bulbs can be planted now, too.

Want more to do? Check out online. Sign up for free monthly zoom webinars in the Growing Oregon Gardeners series by typing “level up” in the search box at

Sign up for garden planning workshops Feb. 12 and 19, 9 – 10:30 a.m. at Santiam Community Gardens in Lyons. Call 503-859-2517 or email [email protected] for more information and to reserve a spot (indoors, space limited, masks and distancing required).

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