Force Flowering Branches
Many flowering branches, such as forsythia, pussy willow, quince, crabapple, plum, cherry, flowering almond, and dogwood, can be forced into bloom indoors. Place freshly cut stems in a vase with water and change the water every few days. Keep the branches in a cool room (60 degrees) and mist occasionally. Look for the flowers to open within a week or two.
Start Early Veggies
Early-season veggies, such as onions and leeks, can be seeded now for transplanting into the garden later this spring. Salad greens and leafy vegetables, such as spinach; as well as cold-tolerant herbs, such as parsley and chives, can also be seeded now and grown indoors under lights for early nibbling.
Plant Slow Annuals
Some of our favorite flowering annuals can take a long time to reach blooming size if started from seed, so they need to be planted very early. Check the seed packet for instructions for plants such as violas, geraniums, lobelia, petunias, vinca, browallia, snapdragons, and verbena.
Provide Cold Treatment for Woody Plant Seeds
The seeds of many woody plants and hardy perennials require a cool, moist stratification period (to simulate winter) prior to planting. Without it, the seeds will not germinate. Provide a cold treatment by placing the seeds in a sealed plastic bag along with some slightly damp, sterile, soilless potting mix or vermiculite. Label and store in the refrigerator for the required period of time.
Give Houseplants the Once-Over
Houseplants will suffer if any one or more of the following factors are unsuitable: lighting, room temperature, soil moisture, humidity, and nutrients. By this time of year, they are most likely to be showing signs of too little light; overwatering; and overly dry air, of which yellowing or drying foliage a common symptom. Remedy the situation as best you can to get them through winter.