Utah State University Extension provides informal education outreach to residents throughout the state. This question-and-answer column is designed to give you research-based information whether your gardening interest is producing fresh food, creating a landscape area or anything in between.
Question: I want to do some grafting this spring, but I don’t remember when I’m supposed to collect the wood that I want to graft with.
Answer: Grafting is a way to make sure your new tree will produce growth and fruit that are the same as the tree you want to reproduce. If you were to simply plant seeds from the tree you like, the fruit wouldn’t have the very same characteristics.
Scionwood, the wood you’re going to graft onto another tree, should be collected while the wood is dormant. This is easiest to do when you are doing your dormant pruning in the early spring. Keep in mind you are collecting living tissue from the tree, not just sticks. The energy in those cuttings will be used to help establish a good graft. Don’t just let your cuttings drop onto the ground for later collection. Drop them into a zip-close bag while you are pruning to protect them from damage or drying out. Collect clean, healthy wood. Make sure you keep track of which ends are up and which ends are down. Store the wood, wrapped in plastic, in your refrigerator or another cold place until it’s time to do your grafting.
Question: Is there anything I can be doing right now to get ready for spring gardening?
Answer: If you like to grow your own transplants, this is the time of year when you can start some of the slower-growing vegetables and flowers indoors.
• Onions, cabbage, spinach and broccoli can all be started now.
• Lettuce can be started in a week or two.
• Pansies and lavender also do best when started in late winter.
• Wait until April to start tender plants like tomatoes, peppers and basil.
Make sure you have bright light for at least eight to 12 hours. The light from a south-facing window usually isn’t enough to produce stocky, healthy transplants, and window sills are too cold for good seed starting. You will need some kind of supplemental LED or fluorescent lighting. Using bottom heat to keep the soil at about 70 degrees is helpful.
• A good seed starting mix is well-worth the money and gives your seeds the best start; don’t use garden soil to start your seeds.
• Use a clear plastic dome or plastic wrap over your planted seeds to prevent them from drying out, but don’t let the starter mix stay wet.
• Once your seeds are germinating and you see the plants emerging, remove the plastic cover to give good air circulation to your plants.
• Watch your starters carefully and water as needed.
• Use half-strength fertilizer in your water once you see true leafs.
If you haven’t already ordered your seeds and mapped out your garden for the new season, you can be doing that now. That way, you’ll know how many transplants you’re going to need. If you’re going to be growing something you haven’t tried before, take some time to learn about that variety and what it needs to thrive.
Also, check your gardening tools and make sure everything is clean, sharp and ready to go. Replace anything broken or worn out. If you didn’t sharpen your mower blade when you put your mower away last year, this is a good time to do that, so you don’t have to take time for that when you’d rather be out in your garden.
There are still a few spots left in the Master Gardener Class in Provo and Thanksgiving Point. Class starts on February 1. If you have questions or would like to attend, please call the USU Extension office at 801-851-8479.