Propagate African Violets
African violets make great houseplants and will flower year-round if you grow them in brightly lit spot. To propagate new plants, take a leaf cutting, dip the cut end in a rooting hormone powder, and stick the cutting in a pot filled with vermiculite or sand. Cover the pot with a perforated, clear plastic bag and keep the soil moist. In a few weeks you'll have new plants.
Soils in the Pacific Northwest tend to be acidic, so periodic liming is needed to keep the pH at the optimum for most plants -- the 6 to 6.5 range. Depending on the results of a soil test, spread lime with a lawn spreader, using the powdered or pelleted forms. If your soil needs magnesium as well as lime, use dolomitic limestone.
Organize Your Tools
If you didn't clean your garden tools and organize the storage shed last fall, now is a good time to tackle this chore. Take everything out, oil wooden handles, sharpen blades, clean hand tools, and wash pots. Then store everything neatly with summer tools toward the back and early-spring potting supplies up front. Life will be a lot easier without the frustration of searching for tools when the weather warms and you're anxious to get out in the garden.
Test Stored Seed
Before ordering or buying seed for spring planting, do a germination test on those leftover from last year. Place 10 seeds on a damp paper towel, roll or fold it up, and place it in a plastic bag in a warm location, such as a kitchen counter. Check to see how many seeds have sprouted after seven days. The number of sprouted seeds will give you the percentage of viable seeds in your collection. If only half of the seeds sprout, sow twice as many seeds as you normally do. Or better yet, order fresh seeds.
Houseplants reach for the light when levels are low, and during the winter months they can become lopsided. To keep your plants from leaning, rotate them a quarter turn every time you water.