Deep blue bubblerDespite the yo-yo weather, the seed racks popping up in local stores should have awakened your inner gardener. Digging may be out, but planning is always in.

First up are things to be thinking about - divided into inside and outside activities.

Outside activities

When the weather permits, the outside list includes pruning and deer repellents (they’re especially hungry in spring). Give some first aid to winter damaged plants and those which may have been pushed out of the ground by deep freezes. Resist removing mulch: an approaching spring usually means  several more weeks of changeable weather which could bring plummeting and/or soaring temperatures.

Indoor activities

Hesperaloe parviflora Coral GlowIndoor activities should start with thoughts about which plants need to be replaced, divided or transplanted. If you made notes from last year or took photos during the season, it's time to resurrect them. Where did you want to make changes? Did you want to add statuary, an artful bench, a trellis, or a water feature? Consider some different annuals this year – maybe one of the 2017 award winners such as the Coral Glow?

Gardening catalogs, whether they land in your mailbox or you prefer browsing online, are great planning tools and a resource for everything from seeds, tools, bulbs, roses, trees, shrubs, perennials or annuals to  simple gardening supplies. Make "wish lists" for items you simply "must have" and those you "want," plus items so unusual or pleasing that your garden would look positively archaic without them. Next, cull the lists before you cruise the web for discounts, looking for early bird specials and free shipping - then get those orders in.

Garden statueNext up is tools. Sharpening, cleaning, and general servicing of your lawn & garden tools will give you a good chance to decide what might need replacing. Remove dirt, debris and rust (using steel wool or sandpaper). Use a rag to apply a light coat of boiled linseed oil -  an item you should be able to find in most hardware and home improvement stores - to dried out wooden handles, then wipe off the excess to dry it. Sharpen shovels before applying a thin coat of 3-in-1 oil to clean surfaces to preserve them while they wait for you. Lastly, when you get your pruners and other cutting tools back from being sharpened, disinfect them with a spritz of rubbing alcohol or use disinfecting surface wipes to wipe them down to reduce the risk of spreading disease which may be lurking from prior use on diseased plants.

When the first true spring day arrives, you should be all set.

by Lorraine Ballato, Garden Writer/Author