The winds are blowing, the world class ice gets covered with a bit of snow now and then, and the thermometer has dared to drop below zero. Just another day or two in the paradise of Minnesota, but the gardening hormones are kicking a little bit here and there. How can that be? Mother Nature is reassuring us that the cycle will continue and we better be on the ball to enjoy it when the time comes.

Now is really the time to start planning for any gardening ventures. The amount of planning will depend on how much and what type of gardening you do. Maybe some of the suggestions I will be giving will move you to a new or different level.

Lots of information sources are available and a good place to start is our own local library. They have books and magazines on a wide range of gardening subjects and if you need help, just ask and a librarian can direct you to library materials. Another good place to start is to study the magazines that are directly related to Minnesota gardening. The Minneapolis and St. Paul papers, as well as the gardening magazines, have announcements of upcoming gardening related events. A number of places that sell garden plants have classes before the actual gardening time comes.

The planners in this group will be starting to get their plants all in a row. The seed catalogs are mostly likely all here and have been well looked over and orders sent off. There are some new exciting things for this year including new hydrangeas produced by Bailey's and a striped sweet pepper. If you are planning to start your own geraniums, you need to get them going this month indoors so they will be ready to flower right around planting out time. Tomatoes and peppers are garden items that are started indoors in March so they will be ready to plant out after the last frost. All these plantings will need to be hardened off before being planted outside. It usually takes several weeks of introducing them to the outdoors and taking them back inside on scheduled times.

Almost anyone can do gardening. It might mean planting a few seeds in tea cups, herbs in gallon buckets or a whole porch full of wine barrels full of typical garden goodies. You do not have to have an actual garden land plot to grow things but you do need the knowledge on how to grow in pots.

There can always be something new under the gardening sun for us to explore even if we are experienced gardens. Maybe this is the year you want to begin or expand your shade gardening. Maybe it is the year to look into water gardening. How about looking into the big wide land of gardening with succulents? They seem to be able to grow in almost any conditions (except for wet and/or standing water) and they don't grow in crazy out-of-control sizes. If you have wet and/or standing water, there are many plants for those areas also. One of my favorites I did for years was to have an all-white flower bed and also have flowers that opened in late afternoon or early evening. They have their own special beauty. Maybe this is the year for fruit tree planting. There is a nice list of fruits that do well in our Minnesota Zone 4 besides apples. And lets not pass up the highly popular Fairy Gardens. You can spend a fortune on purchasing or you can go low key and homemade and still have a magic land. Recycle those sardine cans and pick up sticks, etc and before you know it your Fairy Garden is your own one of a kind. This is just a touch of what you could do. Go for it!

Bea Westerberg may be contacted at bea.in.the.wool@gmail.com.