Western Mountains and High Plains
Sanitize Seed-Starting Supplies
Gather up your old seed-starting supplies. Clean up the plastic pots and trays by soaking them in a 10 percent liquid bleach solution for ten minutes and follow up by rinsing them with warm water. Allow the cleaned containers to dry. Also, check the seed packets of plants for germination and maturity times. Each vegetable and herb and flower needs a specific soil temperature to germinate and grow at its best. Also, be sure to select varieties that will mature within the length of your growing season.
Test Leftover Seeds for Viability
Take inventory of old seeds and check dates that they were purchased. Hopefully they've been stored in a dry and cool location. Seeds older than five years will have poor germination, so you may want to toss them. Otherwise, do a germination test by placing ten seeds in a moist paper towel and counting the number that begin to sprout. If less than fifty percent germinate, it's time for new seeds.
Start Cool-Season Crops
Sow seeds for early cool-season crops in mid to late February. Broccoli, cabbage, kale, onions, garlic, and chives can be planted to get them going for early outdoor transplanting. Make sure they receive enough light to promote strong, vigorous growth.
Inspect the Outdoor Landscape
As the snow melts away, check perennials for signs of crown rot. Many soil-borne water fungi can cause damage if drainage is a problem. In some cases, it is helpful to scrape snow and ice away from the crowns of plants that are sitting in a soggy area. This will allow the soil to dry out slightly and reduce rot.
A good practice in late winter is to thin out old shrubs. You can see the stem and branch structure when there are no leaves. Remove the oldest branches to ground level rather than just cutting back old branches. This will encourage new growth from the base, and it's the best way to renew older shrubs.
Keep Indoor Containers Clean
Do a quick inventory of your houseplants and inspect pots and drainage saucers. Wash or replace those plant saucers to get rid of any salt buildup and other debris. Scrub the sides of the pots if there is any sign of salt accumulation. This will prolong the life of the container. Rinse plant foliage to remove dust and dislodge any indoor pests.