January 2008
Featured Articles


· If a live Christmas tree was purchased, plant outdoors as soon as possible.

· Continue to plant bare-rooted trees and shrubs in good weather. When buying plants, the biggest is not always the best, especially when dealing with bare-root plants. The medium to small sizes (four to six feet) are usually faster to become established and more effective in the landscape than larger sizes.

· Now is an excellent time to transplant mature or established trees and shrubs while they are dormant. Be sure to prune back the top of established trees and shrubs before moving. Remove about one-third to one-half of the top to compensate for roots lost in digging.

· Transplant native plants while they are dormant.

· Now is an excellent time
to select and plant container-grown or bare-root roses to fill in those bare spots in your rose garden or borders.

· Sow wildflower seeds.

· Plant lettuce, cabbage and broccoli seed in cold frames to transplant within six to eight weeks.

· Lettuce is never better than when picked fresh. You can grow the head-type of lettuce but an easier solution may be planting Romaine and loose leaf types. They are easy to plant and young, tender leaves can be harvested for a very tasty salad.

· 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.

· Check seed-starting supplies. Replace old fluorescent or grow lights before the seed-starting season begins. Organize pots, soil, heating mats and lights for growing from seed.

· Prepare to start seeds. Calculate the last frost for your region, then count back five to six weeks for your start date. Sow in seedling mix and mist as needed to keep soil damp. Watering from bottom encourages stronger root development.

· Plant bare-root strawberries
now for a spring harvest. Consider planting in a raised-bed, hanging basket, barrel or an attractive strawberry jar.

· Try forcing amaryllis and paperwhite narcissus.


· Do not fertilize lawns
with warm-season grasses in January or February. Winter weeds are in "prime time." Warm-season turf is dormant, or nearly so. Fertilizer now only encourages rampant weed growth and seed production.

· Don’t fertilize newly set out trees or shrubs
until after they have started to grow. Then only very lightly the first year.

· Don’t forget to feed winter-flowering plants along with your lawn.

· Put a light application
of fertilizer on established pansy plants. Use one pound of 13-13-13 or similar fertilizer per 100 square feet of bed area. Repeat the application every 4 to 6 weeks. Dried bloodmeal or cottonseed meal (3 to 4 pounds per 100 square feet of bed) is also an excellent source of fertilizer for pansies.

· Soil test before setting up fertility program.

· Asparagus beds
should be fed in late January.

· Feed perennials when they start showing greenery.


· Cleanly prune
any storm-damaged branches from trees and shrubs.

· Wait to prune crepe myrtles for more blooms till around Valentines Day.

· Excellent time to prune
invasive trumpet vines or honeysuckle threatening to take over. There are plenty of warm sunny days for a chore like this and it will be much easier now rather than waiting until the spring.

· Prune away
dead portions of houseplants.

 · Climbing roses should be trained but not pruned. Weave long canes through openings in trellises or arbors and tie them with jute twine or plastic/wire plant ties. Securing canes now prevents damage from winter winds and contributes to a more refined look to the garden when roses are blooming. Wait until after the spring-flowering period to prune climbing or once-blooming shrub roses.

· Complete all remaining apple and pear pruning.

· If you haven’t already done it,
prune your dormant trees and shrubs (especially fruit trees). Wait to prune spring-flowering trees or shrubs until they finish blooming.

· Prune trees as necessary
to remove broken, rubbing or overlapping limbs. Also remove limbs hanging too close to the house or walkways.

· 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. Last, shape the rest of the plant, but do not cut everything back to the same height.


· Spot water
any dry areas of your landscape to avoid plant desiccation, but do not overwater. Overwatering encourages root rot.

· Water outdoor plants
in the absence of rain and especially when freezing weather is expected. Well-hydrated plants are more likely to survive severe temperatures.

· Check the potting mix
in pots to be used to force bulbs indoors. Mixture should be evenly moist without standing water. The easiest way to determine moisture is to lift the pots. A dry pot will be lighter than a wet one.

· During the winter, low humidity combined with indoor heat can cause houseplants to dry out quickly. Check soil often and water when the top 1/2-inch has dried out. Water foliage plants as well as other containerized plants only when needed and not by the calendar.

· Water holiday gift plants with care. Check the soil before watering to make sure it is dry to avoid drowning plants. Allowing these and other houseplants to dry out between waterings will help prevent or control fungus.


· This is a good time
to eliminate slugs. Every slug left to roam the garden will reproduce 200 offspring this spring, summer and fall. In addition, the offspring will also reproduce young. So you can make a major reduction in the slug population in your garden by eliminating them now.

· Hand pull winter annuals like common chickweed and henbit.

· Hand pull wild garlic (wild onions) when the soil is moist to make sure the bulb is removed, otherwise it will re-sprout.

· Check junipers and other narrow-leaf evergreens for bagworm pouches. The insect eggs overwinter in the pouch and start the cycle again by emerging in the spring to begin feeding. Hand removal and burning of the pouches are ways of reducing the potential damage next spring.

· It’s not too late for the first application of spray on dormant plants or to follow up with a second or third shot to kill insect and fungus pests before spring. Do not spray when the temperatures are below freezing, when it is raining or the wind is blowing.

· To control existing winter weeds
in the dormant lawn in January, February and very early March: a) use a post-emergence herbicide to kill existing weeds and b) keep your lawn mowed closely at recommended heights for your type of lawn grass. Most winter weeds cannot tolerate close mowing and will be stressed, damaged or even killed by mowing heights used on warm-season lawns and c) plan to use a pre-emergence herbicide next fall to kill next year’s crop. If you have had several winter weeds to mature and produce seed, you will certainly have the potential for a big weed crop next winter. Make notes and plans now.

· Inspect houseplants
for whiteflies, spider mites and aphids.


· If the ground is friable, prepare vegetable beds for spring planting. But if it warms up for a few days, don’t get anxious. The soil needs to be damp but not soggy or sticky. If you take a handful of soil and make a ball, it should fall apart easily when you open your hand. Also, setting out plants prematurely often results in discouraging losses. Planning and getting ready to go saves time and money you’ll want to spend on new plants and tools.

· Do you want new plant beds?
If so, lay out newspaper five or six sheets deep then add several inches of compost over the top. This kills existing vegetation by smothering it. Four months later, you can dig it up to work the compost into the soil. No sod removal is necessary.

· Early in the month,
turn under clover and other green manure crops in the vegetable garden so the soil will be ready for planting in the next few months.

· If you are preparing a new border,
now is the time to mix compost, lime or other amendments into the bed.

· Now is also the time to prepare your site for roses. Make sure soil is not wet. Dig and work the soil thoroughly over as large an area as possible. Spread a 2 to 4-inch layer of compost or other organic matter. Add limestone to increase soil pH (if recommended by soil-test). Mix material into bed 8 to 12-inches deep. Allow the bed to settle for a few days before planting.

· If you have not done so already, begin keeping a gardening journal. Wire coil sketchbooks work well for notes, planning, ideas, germination times and results. You’ll enjoy it next winter when you plan the next season’s garden and appreciate the wealth of accurate information. Also, you will be amazed when, years from now, you go back and look at what you have accomplished! In addition to recording your garden’s progress, it is also an excellent way to keep track of where you bought plants, tools, etc. and weather conditions in your area.

· Make a growing chart to determine where and when you need to plant. Organize your seed packets (not only your flowers, remember vegetables and herbs too) for your sowing schedule.

· On warm days, take a look at the bare bones of your garden structure. See where plants can be placed, which plants might need to be moved and write down your thoughts and ideas for future reference when the planting season begins.

· Graft pecans
over entire state and start grafting camellias in South Alabama.

· Turn compost pile monthly or more often and keep moist.

· Maintain non-dormant ryegrass
over-seeded bermudagrass lawns at a height of 1 inch.

· Check the cold frame for signs of trouble. On warm, sunny days, vent the cold frame.

· Make sure indoor plants
are receiving enough light with the shorter days and low sun angle.

· Plants growing under fluorescent lights
need to rest at night. Rely on an automatic timer to keep the lights on for about 12 to 16 (but no more the 18) hours per day before shutting them off automatically at night.

· Houseplants will enjoy a "shower" to clean off leaves. Place plants into a bathtub or on a porch and gently spray with lukewarm water. Clean off leaves of large plants with a damp soft cloth. To clean plants with felty leaves, like African Violets, use a small brush and brush off leaves - do not clean leaves with water. 

· Check houseplants for heat stress.
Maintain adequate humidity and light levels. Also, houseplants, especially tropicals, might suffer cold injury if they are placed too close to window panes during the winter. Move them back a few inches and make sure their leaves are not touching the glass.

· To encourage amaryllis
to bloom next year, remove withered flowers and give plenty of sunlight and nutrients to strengthen the bulbs.

· Bring branches of forsythia
in for forcing.

· Propagate split-leaf philodendrons and other leggy indoor plants by air-layering.

· Check houseplants for insects and repot root-bound plants. 

· If you get the winter blues,
find out where you can take a day trip to a conservatory. Many large and medium-sized cities in the region have indoor botanical gardens that offer a nice escape for those of us who need to see some green and smell the organic scents of growing plants and soil.

· Catch up on garden reading
and incorporate a few new ideas into this year’s plan.

· Add fresh manure to the vegetable garden soil to allow for decomposition before planting time.

· Check any old chemicals you might have. Before you discard, check with your county or city waste management office for guidance on recycling or disposing of any hazardous chemicals.

· Continue to harvest collards, rape and kale.
Cooler weather sweetens the leaves. Harvest regularly from the bottom of the plants so they will continue to grow.

· January is a good time
to get down and check-out the condition of those gourds put away to dry in the garage or back porch. A little mold may appear on the surface but will not be a problem. If they are to be left natural the mold patterns will add interest, or they can be scrubbed off with warm water. To provide a natural look, polish them with a cloth, or go over them with hard-floor or shoe wax or polyurethane.

· Look over any tender bulbs, corms, tubers
and produce stored away to check for shriveling and rot. You can usually re-hydrate shriveled bulbs by sprinkling them with water. Remove anything that shows signs of decay. Dahlia tubers are the exception: cut out the bad spots, dust tubers with sulfur and store separately.

· Select and order gladiolus corms for early-spring planting. Plant at two-week intervals to prolong flowering period.

· Mulch asparagus beds heavily with well-rotted manure.

· Organize the garden shed. Clean, sterilize and organize terracotta pots, planters and starter trays. Sterilize using a bleach and water solution of one part bleach to 10 parts water. Rinse thoroughly then dry.

· If you’ve procrastinated on tool care, now is the time to make sure the mower is serviced and other tools are clean and sharp. Sharpen shovels and hoes, rub down wood handles with linseed oil, and replace or hone dull blades on pruning shears and knives. Now is also a good time to buy or order new tools for spring work.

· Clean and repair outdoor furniture. It may be too cold to paint unless you’ve got a basement or heated and ventilated work area, but at least they will be ready when the weather warms.

· Clean yard of any downed or broken branches. Tie any vines or climbers that have come loose from their supports.

· Place three inches of mulch
around trees, shrubs and flowerbeds to keep weeds under control. Keep the mulch away from the trunks of trees and shrubs as well as the stems of bedding plants.

· The life of the plant
received as a Christmas gift can be prolonged with proper care. Keep the soil moist, but provide drainage so that excess moisture can flow from the pot. Keep the plant out of range of heating ducts and away from heating units. Keep in a cool room at night, preferably at 60 to 65o.

· Tree wrap protects
the thin bark of young trees from drying winter winds and sun scald as well as insect pests, rodents and other wild winter browsers. Apply this protective layer by gently wrapping it around the trunk, beginning just below the soil line. Overlap the layers as you wind them snugly around the tree. End the wrap below the first tree branch. Secure the wrap with masking tape. When the tree begins to leaf out in early spring remove the wrap to allow the trunk room for growth.

· Don’t forget
to feed the birds!