Perennials: Before ordering seeds of new plants, check the USDA hardiness zone and the dimensions of the plant at maturity. Hardiness zone maps are published in many catalogs and garden magazines. The zones are being revised because of climate change.
Flowers: All America Selections of seeds are featured in seed catalogs and can be recognized by the red-white-and blue shield displayed by their descriptive names. These seeds have been tested and judged for more than two years before winning the prize. Seeds to start now: long season annuals such as snapdragons, impatiens, petunias and geraniums and early blooming plants such as pansies.
Vegetables and fruits: Seeds of celery, celeriac and leeks can be started this month. The most critical time for starting seed is the germination period for which temperatures of 65 to 70 degrees are required and even higher for some seeds. In a cool house set trays on top of the furnace, radiator or even an electric food warming tray, or better yet a heating mat. After germination takes place, provide a strong light source. Test last year’s leftover seeds for viability by placing 10 or so seeds in a moist paper towel. Check for sprouting daily for a few days. Seeds that fail to germinate should be discarded.
Trees and shrubs: Inspect large trees carefully each year, especially those with the potential for harming people or property if they fail. Signs of defects include dead wood, cracks, decay, cankers and poor architecture. An arborist should be consulted for treatment. Recent severe storms have destroyed many large trees in heavily populated areas. A defective tree can’t stand up to high winds and soaking rains.
Lawns: Apply lime to turf any time of year. Audubon Greenwich has a demonstration lawn that uses no synthetic pesticides or fertilizers. Top-dressings with compost keep it looking good, and it is mowed high — around 3 inches. It is worth a visit.
Houseplants: Water from cooking eggs is a tonic for tired houseplants, according to the Sprig & Twig Garden Club in Delaware.
General: Build birdhouses for the birds you have attracted to your yard with their favorite foods. Scores of birds from the bluebird to wrens to woodpeckers will nest in a box suitable for them. Look for specifics in the library or on the web.
Susan Henry is a master gardener with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Westchester.