Jump-Start Your Garden Indoors

February 7, 2018
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Deep Cut Orchid Society Annual Orchid Show at Dearborn Farms in Holmdel, NJ

By Gretchen C. Van Benthuysen |

It’s the first day of February, the time of year gardeners’ thoughts turn to getting their hands dirty, whether that happens by starting seeds indoors for transplanting outdoors or checking outdoor shrubs and plants to bring indoors.

Die-hard gardeners have been perusing garden catalogs and websites since they began arriving in the mail and online around Christmas.

Every year new varieties of plants, shrubs and vegetables join the old faithfuls. The perfect time to plan that garden is when it’s cold outside.

And on those slightly warmer days, get outside and see if some of your hardy perennial herbs such as sorrel, sage or oregano may be awakening. Or trim the forsythia and bring the branches inside for forcing. (More on that below.)

For Monmouth County, which is mostly Zone 7A inland and Zone 7B along the shore, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Hardiness Zone Map, you should start seeds for broccoli, cauliflower and peas by the middle of this month. Lettuce, kale, cabbage and carrots by the first of March. Beans and squash April 1.

Already confused? Not to worry. There’s help everywhere.

Brock Farms in Colts Neck is hosting its first Indoor Gardening Day from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Feb. 17. Seminars on seed starting and lighting, creating fairy gardens and terrariums, and beekeeping and pollinator-friendly gardens are planned.

Assistant store manager Quinn Lahm said indoor gardening of all kinds has increased in popularity, especially hydroponics, and she wanted to highlight that.

“People want to get into it, but a lot of them don’t know the right way to start seeds,” she explained. “They don’t understand the basics. And they don’t want to appear dumb, or uneducated.

“I also wanted to do this event around the same time people are starting their seeds, especially the home gardener, the hobbyist,” she said. “It’s a nice open way to come, ask questions, and learn. We want to become their spot to get the help and advice they need.”

Lahm has worked here eight years and said millennials, in particular, are showing increased interest in gardening. And she would not be wrong.

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Millennials (ages 18-34 in 2015, according to the Pew Research Center) are the fastest growing garden segment, according to a 2014 special National Gardening Association report, “Garden to Table: A 5-Year Look at Food Gardening in America.” In 2008 there were 8 million millennial food gardeners. In 2013 there were 13 million, up 63 percent. Millennials also nearly doubled their spending on food gardening from $632 million in 2008 to $1.2 billion in 2013.

Not only that, the report found that more households with children participated in food gardening, increasing participation during the same time period by 25 percent, from 12 million to 15 million.

“All of our events are kid-friendly and very, very hands on, but low pressure,” Lahm said. “The beekeeper (Rutgers Master Gardener and a branch secretary for the New Jersey Beekeepers Association Angela Juffey) is bringing milkweed and clay to make milkweed bombs so people can toss them into their gardens so they will have milkweed flowers for the pollinators and the bees.”

“I’m really, really into bees so I’m thrilled,'” Lahm said. “Actually, I’ve gotten the most buzz (yes, she said that on purpose) and the most positive feedback about that particular seminar so I’m really looking forward to that.”
Among the events planned for Feb. 17 are: Seed Starting & Lighting Requirements for Indoor Growing; Making a Fairy Garden; Easy Terrarium Gardening; and Beekeeping & Pollinator Friendly Gardens.

A longtime event that always goes over well is the annual Deep Cut Orchid Society show and sale in the greenhouse at Dearborn Market, 2170 Route 35, Holmdel.

The show runs Feb. 8-11. Show hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Admission and parking is free.

“If you want to enjoy these exotic blooms, but are worried that they are difficult to grow, don’t despair,” said Deb Bodei, Orchid Society president. ” There are plenty of fool-proof varieties that will flower again and again with the minimum amount of fuss.”

The event features garden exhibits and orchid displays by local and international orchid growers. American Orchid Society judges will award the best exhibit and orchid in show. Experts are available to answer questions. Raffles and silent auctions are planned throughout the show.

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Guided tours and educational workshops are available for all levels of orchid enthusiasts. To coordinate a show tour, call Carol Abaya at 732-536-6215. For general information, call Show Chair Helen Kroh at 732-241-2483.

The Monmouth County Park System offers classes year round for adults, children and families, including two 90-minute classes this month appropriate for beginners on how to start seeds indoor.

The activity includes planting an early spring, self-watering seed tray with a variety of spring crops to get a jump-start. They are scheduled from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Feb. 24, and from 3 to 4:30 p.m. Feb. 28, at Deep Cut Gardens Horticultural Center, 152 Red Hill Road, Middletown. Each class costs $36.

A new class for adults, Native Plants for Pollinators, is scheduled from 12-1:30 p.m. Feb. 15 and costs $15. It explores the use of native plants to create a low-maintenance landscape whose blooms benefit native pollinators, such as bees and butterflies.

To register and see a list of additional activities, visit www.monmouthcountyparks.com 732-842-4000, ext. 1. or in person at the Thompson Park Administration Building, 805 Newman Springs Road, Middletown

Sickles Market, 1 Harrison Ave., Little Silver, offers gardening tips on its website broken down by month. They also offer  tips on indoor air plants, succulents, orchids, toxic and nontoxic house plants.

This month, the site warns us to keep an eye out for indoors pests such as white fly and scale, and suggests a systemic powder to prevent attacks all winter.

This time of year also is good for cutting branches from forsythia, pussy willow, quince and flowering cherry, peach and most fruit trees, for indoor displays.

Sickles’ florist suggests placing the branches in a large bucket of warm water, add a tablespoon of bleach (to stop bacteria from forming) and a teaspoon of liquid flower food. When the flowers begin opening, transfer to a vase with water and keep in a cool spot away from the sun. Mist frequently.

For more online tips, visit sicklesmarket.com.

This article was first published in the Feb. 1-8, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.

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