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No better time to dig up ideas for your 2011 garden

Talking about gardening in February might seem a bit premature, but you are probably just as anxious to welcome the warmer months and get some seeds into the soil as I am.

Beginning today and for every Sunday through the growing season, these columns will inspire you to grow a productive garden, whether you want to eat your harvest or surround yourself with beautiful flowers.

No matter where you live – in an apartment, on a city lot or out in the country – you can have a vegetable and flower garden. Your success lies in choosing the right plants for your conditions.

This year’s topics will include nearly everything you’ve ever wanted to know about growing your own veggies, how to prune trees and shrubs, and growing cool plants like dahlias and orchids.

I’ll cover how to garden on the cheap, selecting beautiful annuals and perennials for your landscape, interesting garden tours to go on, and much more.

For those who are new to gardening or to this area, the Inland Northwest is located in USDA zone 5. This means our winter temperatures can go as low as 20 degrees below zero. We typically have about 120 frost-free days between mid-May and mid-September.

Our weather can be particularly challenging, but I’ll be sharing tips for dealing with those challenges throughout the season.

Once again, the Spokane County Master Gardeners have scheduled some wonderful gardening classes to help you learn the basics and enjoy yourself in the process (see information box for details).

In a couple of weeks, I’ll write about starting plants from seeds. I’ve included a list of the varieties of vegetables I’ll be growing this year with this column.

For now, I’d like to leave you with two important issues to mull over: Let’s all take the pledge to grow our gardens organically – don’t worry, I’ll show you how – and let’s take good care of our soil by building it up every year.

Susan Mulvihill can be reached via e-mail at inthegarden@ live.com.Visit her blog at susansinthegarden.blogspot.com for more gardening information and tips.