Groundhog Day a good reminder to check plant material in storage

Bob Dluzen
Special to The Detroit News

In the past, Groundhog Day had more meaning to rural folks than it does nowadays.

When I was a young’un growing up in rural southeastern Michigan, the farmers in our neighborhood would make a bit of a fuss about Groundhog Day (some would add “‘s” to Hog when talking about it).

Many farmers at that time had more diverse operations than farmers today. They often raised cattle, chickens, pigs, dairy cows or some combination of those. They also grew their own feed crops for their livestock and harvested and stored it right on the farm.

They reckoned that Feb. 2  would be the halfway mark of winter so they would take stock of their feed situation and have a pretty good idea if there would be enough hay in the mow or corn in the crib for their animals. If you had half or more of your feed still in storage, you were in pretty good shape.

As gardeners, we can take a page from their book and use Groundhog Day to remind ourselves to check on our own garden stuff.

Years ago I stored some garden seeds in the garage. I checked them around this time of the year and found mice somehow got in. They were beginning to chew open and eat the zip-lock bags of seeds I had in a drawer. Had I waited until seed sowing time, the seeds would have been gone.

Two days before Ground Hog Day and my stored dahlia tubers are in great shape. The sawdust was beginning to get dry so I added a little bit of water to keep the tubers from shriveling.

Groundhog Day is the perfect time to check on those tubers and flower bulbs that we stored last fall.

Maybe some of your potatoes are  beginning to show signs of rot. Those that do will need to be discarded to avoid contaminating the rest of the batch. Perhaps your flower bulb storage medium is getting dry and needs a bit more moisture, as was the case with my dahlias.

Any garden perishable in storage would benefit from a quick inspection right now. That will give you time to correct any minor problem before it turns into a major headache.