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Start seeds now for early cool-weather vegetables and flowers 

      Opening my mailbox this time of year results in armloads of colorful seed catalogs. My head gets dizzy with visions of flowers and vegetables swirling before me as a new growing season looms.

Create wild places, and wildlife will come

      My home is on the edge of a forest with many old oaks and tall loblolly pines. There are also many native shrubs and perennials in a hundred-year flood plain. Beaver Creek meanders through the flood plain before running into Severn Run, which becomes the headwaters of the Severn River.       Our land is preserved in the Maryland Environmental Trust. An occasional reward is getting to see some unexpected wildlife.

For Valentine’s Day, make a tussie-mussie filled with floral meaning

     Roses are red, dilly dilly, lavender is blue, dilly dilly, but a tussie-mussie made just for you is very special.       Tight little circular nosegays were extremely popular in Victorian days. They were made in the language of flowers with each sprig having a specific meaning such as love, good luck or condolence.

There’s nothing funny about the health benefits of eating fungi

      A bowl of creamy mushroom soup is a great soother in winter’s cold. Mushrooms are good for your immune system as well as for flavor. They help to strengthen your body against colds, flu and more.

Begin your garden now

     In my first column, I challenged you to live a Blue Zone-type of life. One of the main attributes of Blue Zone living is to have a garden that can supply you with fresh vegetables free of pesticides. If you don’t already have a vegetable garden, now is the time to put some thought into it.       First, decide where you’re going to put it and what you want to grow.

Learn what you want now for spring planting

      Feeding our winter bird population is a pleasant chore. It’s a treat to observe birds close up in feeders. One of the nicest feeders I have enjoyed was a clear plexiglass one that stuck to the outside of my kitchen window. As I washed dishes, I could really observe winter birds closely, especially Christmas-card cardinals.

Herbal teas to keep you well

      Prevention is the best medicine. Winter colds can make you miserable and spread quickly, causing sleepless nights. Some simple things you can do are to wash your hands frequently and try not to rub your eyes or face. Coughing or sneezing into the crook of your arm is better than in your hand.        Building up your immune system is also important so as not to succumb so easily to a virus looking for a new home.

Make 2019 your year to start a garden

      I recently returned from a vacation to Greece, specifically, the remote island of Ikaria in the northeast Aegean Sea. My ancestral home, it is designated a Blue Zone by National Geographic’s Dan Buettner.       The world’s five Blue Zones have high concentrations of centenarians —without problems like heart disease, dementia, diabetes and cancer. Research has shown that these Blue Zones have certain things in common.

Each of our Christmas ­evergreens tells a story

      Early Americans celebrated a long Yuletide from December 15 to Epiphany on January 6. Europeans started earlier on December 6, Saint Nicholas Day. In every tradition, evergreens have been part of the celebration.      Why do we decorate our homes with boughs of pine and holly?
Planning for spring starts now 
      Calvert Garden Club awards mini-grants of $100 to $1,000 to local non-profits to Plant Calvert from River to Bay.       Last year’s theme was Beautifying Calvert County, and a $1,000 grant was awarded to the youth group of All Saints Church in Sunderland for Project Spudnik. Inspired by the movie The Martian, they made their own soil in growbags and grew vegetables in it.