The true spring weather may not be upon us yet, but some local master gardeners are gearing up and making preparations for the growing season.
It's too early for ground planting, but Bernice Cellini of Altoona will soon start her own perennial seeds under grow lights. These perennials, which Bernice described as "easy and dependable," will include salvia, delphiniums, scarlet sage and marigolds.
"It's a challenge to see if I can get them to come up," she said.
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Doug?Endler of Duncansville plants red tulip bulbs in pots.
To help ease this challenge, Cellini said she will first chill the seeds she buys in the refrigerator. After she plants them in pots, she will store them in a cool, dark coal vent in her house.
"There's nothing like starting your own seeds," Cellini said.
Doug Endler of Duncansville has already potted his tulip bulbs for Easter blooming. He said it's important to start them in sterilized containers and to use a soil that is 50 percent peat moss and 50 percent perlite or vermiculite.
"You can't just go out and dig up garden soil," he said.
Once the young plants emerge, Endler said he fixes a fluorescent light within an inch of the plants, and shines it on them for up to 16 hours a day.
Endler will also start many of his vegetable plants from seeds because there is a much wider variety then buying the plants. He'll usually try different types of tomatoes, eggplants and peppers every year to experiment with what grows best. For instance, he's found the Roma, Big Boy, Better Boy and Early Girl tomatoes grow better in his garden than many of the other varieties.
"They really seem to like this area of the state we're in," he said. "They grow well and taste very good."
Cathy Schwartz of Hollidaysburg also enjoys experimenting with seeds. She said she's tried different varieties of tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers and has grown unique potatoes you wouldn't normally find in this area.
"If you're an experimental type person, it's fun to grow a new packet of seeds just to see what you're going to get," she said. "Sometimes it's a disaster, but sometimes it's a real joy."
However, she won't be planting any of her vegetables or flowers until some time in April.
Al Ilmer of Duncansville will plant his onion sets in mid-March and has already ordered some asparagus seeds that, he said, can be planted as soon as it's warm enough to work the ground.
Even though we've had a mild winter, Ilmer added that it's important for gardeners not to plant or work the ground too early.
"If you plow or shovel too early, the dirt will be clotty all year," he said. "If you plant too early, you're not gaining much. Seeds won't germinate, or they'll rot in the ground."
But it's not too early for Karen Claton of Hollidaysburg to start doing her "spring cleanup," which will be her main focus in the garden this month. This includes removing leaves and debris and cutting back butterfly bushes and shrubs. This will allow the bulbs she planted last fall, including daffodils and tulips, to come up well when it gets warmer.
Claton also enjoys adding pansies for "spring color," but won't be planting these or any other annuals until May, she said.
"We had a mild winter, so people may think spring is just around the corner," she said.
"But for gardeners, you're really taking risks [by planting early]. You don't want your hard work or your money to go to waste."
Mirror Staff Writer Beth Ann Downey is at 946-7520.