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No need to curtail garden planning during the winter– there's plenty you can do from the warm comfort of your home!

ttention avid gardeners! There is no need to be mopey and depressed about the lack of outdoor gardening activity in the winter months. That’s because there is plenty that you can do INSIDE, without starting up a tiller or picking up a hoe. Instead of those activities, how about picking up some pencils and a few sheets of paper (graph paper would be even better)– because those are the tools of choice, when you begin planning for your 2016 planting. As icy winds howl outside, just sit down at a table with paper, pencils and a computer, laptop or other mobile device close at hand, for online research purposes. Sketch out your existing garden spaces, OR envision new areas that you would like to develop in your yard. If you know your garden areas well, put pencil to paper as you plot out the available space– then start filling in the spaces with the most appropriate plants, given the area’s known soil conditions, light and moisture level. If unsure about the viability of a particular plant, simply go online to research its specific characteristics. Visit our website often during the process and click on the “Find Plants” button in the menu bar– which then will give you access to a wealth of detailed information about thousands and thousands of plants. Our Plant Finder allows you to make your search for plant data as broad or as narrow as you wish. We’re certain that you will find the most current information that you will need in order to put together a great blueprint for the coming year. You can even compile and save a plant list from your online findings! Many of you have used this valuable resource during the past year and have commented to us about getting a great deal of useful information from the “Find Plants” section. For those you who have never used it, why not give it a whirl– it’s FAST & EASY!

One other thing that you can do in advance of the growing season that will require a short visit to your garden areas is SOIL SAMPLING. If you are unsure of your soil’s condition, a good way to find out is to take a sample and send it in to a reliable laboratory for testing. A good local resource for soil testing is GMS Laboratories in Cropsey, Illinois. Just go to their website, www.gmslab.com and click on “Lawn & Garden”. There you will find complete instructions on how to take a soil sample and where to send it for their expert analysis. Once you have those results in hand, you will know what you will need in order to augment or adjust your soil’s chemical composition. Clip those results to your garden plan drawings, so that you will have all relevant information pooled together when you pay Niepagens a visit at the first signs of springtime weather. Remember that good, rich, conditioned soil means that you have created the optimum growth environment for your plants!

Having reliable, complete and accurate information on file– and a solid plan developed ahead of the growing season– can save time and money in the long run. So don’t let Old Man Winter deter you from dreaming about the warm days ahead. You can take action now by envisioning and plotting out your “dream garden”! All it takes are some very basic sketches, a few thoughtful clicks and scrolling to explore ideas, some careful note-taking and a bit of easy reading to discover and assemble some vital gardening and landscape information. Then, you will be prepared to meet the 2016 gardening season head on. Spring is not that far way… there is no time to waste… so, let’s get busy!

©2015 Wendell Niepagen Greenhouses & Garden Center