January - What's in Lisa's Garden?


Lisa Colburn


In My Garden (Zone 3-4)

Lisa Colburn
Lisa Colburn is a crazy gardener, great cook and author of The Maine Garden Journal.


Anyone who thinks that gardening begins in the spring and ends in the fall is missing the best part of the whole year. For gardening begins in January with the dream.

-Josephine Nuese

As I look out the windows at a sheet of white, I know that it will be a few months before I’m outside enjoying my garden. Right now, gardening is being done in my head. I’m remembering some of the highlights of last year’s garden. I jot down a list of chores that must be done and plants that must be divided or moved in the coming season. In my mind’s eye, I know that this year, my flower gardens will have the most abundant, floriferous display ever. And, my vegetable garden will break records with its yield of edible crops. Neighbors will be amazed! The reality is, that it’s time to start my armchair gardening in earnest.

I’ve been keeping a garden journal for many years, and over time, I’ve figured out the best time to start many of the flower and vegetable seeds indoors, for my area.


If you’re a new gardener, read the recommendations on the seed packet about how many weeks before the last frost date, to start seeds. There’s an optimal time to transplant seedlings into the garden, also. If you start seeds too early, they may be over-mature and go into shock when planted outside. If you start too late, you’ll be missing part of our short growing season. In my area of Maine, the rule of thumb has always been to wait until after Memorial Day weekend before putting out frost-tender plants. So, essentially, that means tomatoes, peppers and most annual flowers remain safely in their pots until after the holiday.

OK, now let’s take a step back in time and talk about how I start my seeds indoors. When it’s time to start my seeds in early spring, the length of day is still too short, and starting seeds on a windowsill will only result in stretched out, lanky plants. I must supplement with artificial lights.

My set-up for starting seeds is not a sophisticated, high-tech system but rather standard fluorescent lights installed in my basement. It works like a charm. Starting my own seeds allows me to grow plants that may not be available at local garden centers and, I also like the idea of saving lots of money by growing my own plants economically.

I’ll be placing seed and plant orders this month. I know it’s early but I’ve been disappointed in the past when I’ve placed orders later in the spring only to find out that something I had my heart set on has sold out.

Anyone who’s been in my garden knows that I’m a zinnia fanatic. Zinnias can be direct sown in the garden when the soil has warmed up, but I want early blooms so I start many zinnia varieties under lights to get a head start. Here are a few photos of some of my stunning zinnias:

Zinnia ‘Pop Art White and Red,

Zinnia ‘Double Fire. (Photo's from last summer's flowers are an inspiration)




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Gardening Tip of the Day

  • If you received a flowering amaryllis plant for the holidays, you can make it bloom again next year around the holiday time.

    After the flowers fade, cut just the flower stalk to about 2 inches above the soil level. Continue watering when soil becomes dry. Regularly fertilize the plant with a houseplant formula such as 5-5-5 or 5-10-5 following directions on the fertilizer package. After about six months of allowing the foliage to grow, stop fertilizing and begin to reduce watering over a 2- to 3-week period. After this period, stop watering. Eliminating water and fertilizer allows the bulb to enter a dormant or resting phase. Move the pot to a dry, cool (50 to 60 degrees F.) room that has good ventilation for 2 to 3 months.

    Sometime in early November, move the pot to a bright, warm spot and renew watering. In anywhere from 4 to 8 weeks, the amaryllis should flower again.