Well, January is almost over and as I thumb through my gardening and seed catalogs I can't help but look forward to the coming spring.
Winter time is an excellent time to reflect on our gardening success or possible lack of success of the past gardening season. While I'm are sitting next to a nice warm fire, I am beginning to make plans to improve or expand my gardens. January and February are months to plan and begin preparations for a great spring that will be right around the corner! Below are a few of the chores that I've found that need to be added to my gardening work for the winter months.
· Now is an excellent time to transplant mature or established trees and shrubs while they are dormant
· Make flower and vegetable garden plans now before the rush of spring planting. Time spent in armchair gardening before the fireplace will pay off in improved plant selection. Besides, it is fun to page through the garden catalogs and books while contemplating changes in the garden.
· Apply slow release fertilizer to pansies and other cool season annuals.
· Prepare beds and garden area for spring planting. Till in several inches of compost, composted pine bark or similar material.
· Check junipers and other narrow-leaf evergreens for bagworm pouches. The insect eggs over winter in the pouch, and start the cycle again by emerging in the spring to begin feeding on the foliage. Hand removal and burning of the pouches reduce future damage.
· Don’t fertilize newly set out trees or shrubs until after they have started to grow, and then only very lightly the first year.
· When buying plants, the biggest is not always the best, especially when dealing with bare-root plants. The medium to small sizes (4 to 6 feet) are usually faster to become established and more effective in the landscape than the large sizes.
· Hold off on pruning bush roses until February or early March. Use good shears that will make clean cuts. Remove dead, dying, and weak canes. Leave 4 to 8 healthy canes, and remove approximately one-half of the top growth and height of the plant.
· Now is an excellent time to select and plant container-grown roses to fill in those bare spots in your rose garden.
· When pruning shrubs, first prune out any dead or damaged branches; then thin out by removing about one-third of the canes or stems at ground level, removing the oldest canes only; and last, shape the rest of the plant, keeping in mind the natural shape of the plant. Water foliage plants as well as other containerized plants only when needed and not by the calendar.
Occasionally the weather is cold enough to warrant bringing in houseplants that normally thrive all year long on my patio. (This usually brings the comment; "This place looks like a jungle! Where are the monkeys?" from my husband.) While they are inside I have the opportunity to inspect and clean them up. A few will get new soil and/or pots. Often this is a great opportunity for me to start new "babies" from some of my older plants. Once these have taken root they make wonderful gifts for friends.