Plan for Spring Greens
Frigid temperatures won't last forever, and in only a few weeks fast-growing spring greens like leaf lettuce, arugula, and spinach can be planted in the garden if provided with protection. This protection can be as elaborate as a purchased cold frame or as simple as PVC pipes stuck in the ground and covered with clear plastic. Have your seeds and protective system ready for those first warm days. There are dozens of leaf lettuce varieties available, so if you can't make up your mind, choose one of the mixtures that most seed catalogs offer.
Start Cool-Season Transplants
If you don't already know your average last frost date, check the Freeze/Frost Maps of the National Climatic Data Center (http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/climate/freezefrost/frostfreemaps.html). Armed with that information, count back seven to nine weeks. This is the best time to start seeds indoors of cool-season vegetables that get transplanted into the garden about two weeks before the average last frost, such as broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage. If you're gardening for a household of only two or three people, consider growing the early-maturing, mini cabbages like 'Gonzales' or 'Arrowhead', which mature in eight to nine weeks at 1 to 3 pounds.
Tend Awakening Houseplants
Day length is already more than an hour longer than it was in December, which means that houseplants are beginning to do more than just hold their own. As they respond to the light with growth, pay extra attention to watering needs and begin giving applications of fertilizer, following manufacturer's directions. Remember, too, to turn the plants periodically so that all sides receive adequate light and grow evenly.
Visit a Garden Show
One of the gardener's rites of spring is to visit a garden show in February or March. Many of these are a combination of homebuilding and remodeling vendors as well as garden-related companies, but a few focus only on plants. These include the Philadelphia, New England, and Northwest garden shows. Even if none of these are a possibility this year, be sure to visit one that is closer. The American Horticultural Society (http://www.ahs.org/events/index.htm) lists many (as well as lots of other gardening events) on their Web site.
Make Maple Syrup
With a maple tree and a few specialized items, you can make your own maple syrup. A sugar maple is best, but other maples, or even a hickory, will also provide sap that cooks down to syrup. The best time to tap is from late February through early March, or when nights are below freezing and days are above freezing. Supplies can be found at Lehman's (http://www.lehmans.com). Lots of Web sites offer instructions, but start at the University of Minnesota (http://www.extension.umn.edu/distribution/naturalresources/DD1067.html), or Backwoods Home Magazine (http://www.backwoodshome.com/articles/shaffer59.html). Or visit local maple syrup farms, which often have pancakes and tours available.