Cabin fever gardening from a (social) distance

Planting out sprouting dahlia tuber with shoots in spring flower garden.
A photo showing a person gardening. By getting started now, you can have a fun winter project for yourself and the family. Photo credit Maksims Grigorjevs/Getty Images

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — There’s nothing quite like staring at a blanket of white outside the window to steer even a casual gardener’s thoughts to blankets of flowers.

Get started now and you can have a fun winter project for yourself and the family, save a bunch at the garden center come spring, and keep some stuff out of the waste stream. Win-win-win.

New seed packets are available, and increasing daylight means ‘tis the season for sowing your summer garden right on your windowsill. Plant babies can be started indoors from seed about six to eight weeks before the last frost date in our area — generally early April — to then be transplanted in a garden or outdoor container.

You’ll need the seeds and a bag of starter mix but you have an assortment of materials for wee seedling pots in your recycling bin right now. Repurpose newspaper, food cartons, stale ice cream cones and even toilet paper rolls as seed pots and pop them right into the garden to biodegrade in spring and summer rains as your garden blooms.

Capturing that rainwater with thirsty plants in a specifically-designed rain garden is an environmentally friendly stormwater management technique that can also save on your watering time and water usage.

The Pennsylvania Resources Council hosts a free online rain garden workshop Thursday, Feb. 11, from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. to show you how to build a feature that looks great while reducing flooding and stormwater pollution and improving water quality in our streams and rivers for aquatic life and recreational users. Win-win-win.

It may not feel like perfect weather for a garden stroll but a winter landscape is worth a look — and a listen.

The Tookany Tacony-Frankford Watershed Partnership is hosting free bird walks in Tacony Creek Park in English and Spanish on Saturday, Feb. 13 as part of the Great Backyard Bird Count. Register for one of two sessions. Binoculars will be provided but masks and social distancing will be required.

Before, after, or instead of trekking out to see the birds, this addictive, excellent interactive tool includes many feathered friends that are native to the Delaware Valley that kids and kids-at-heart can click on for OG tweets.

Longwood Gardens is offering a fascinating audio tour this month voiced by storyteller Charlotte Blake Alston. You can download the audio for “Voices in The Landscape” and listen to her interesting and evocative tales celebrating and honoring African American contributions to horticulture in the United States and our region at specific locations on the sprawling property.

You can also hear her stories online, perhaps as you study your own landscape and dream of spring.

And a bonus Valentine’s tip: As delightful as cut flowers can be as a gift, they are resource-intensive and — especially this time of year — an expensive way to treat your heart’s desire.

The slow-flower movement promotes restricting your cut-flower purchases to locally grown varieties that don’t have to be flown across the world and treated with extra chemicals to survive the trip. And it’s a great way to bestow a bouquet — except that, at this time of year, local greenhouse-grown florals are extremely energy-intensive; so not the most sustainable alternative.

What’s an eco-conscious Valentine to do?

Adopt a “bouquet” of bulbs to bloom in late March, beautifying Dilworth Park at City Hall, and Cret and Sister Cities Parks on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. A tax-deductible donation starting at $25 ($1 per bulb) also benefits the Center City District’s programs to remove graffiti, connect homeless individuals with services, and keep sidewalks clean and safe.

Recipients get a personalized e-card about this heartwarming way to spare the planet while prettying up the City of Brotherly Love.