When Bonnie Plants onion and cabbage transplants are available, plant them in the garden beneath a row cover.
Folks in the southern part of the state can plant potatoes in the early part of the month and those in the northern part toward the end or first part of February. Only when the soil is dry enough, dig a trench about a foot deep and place potato pieces with one or more eyes every foot. Fill the trench halfway with good, loose soil and keep filling as the stems emerge leaving about 2 inches above the soil. Fill until the soil is level again.
If the soil dries out enough to work, go ahead and prepare a spot for the late February planting of peas and kale.
Start seeds of cabbage, early lettuce and, at the end of the month, broccoli.
Continue planting container grown ornamentals. Be sure to loosen the roots and the media before backfilling. For slightly pot-bound roots: Cut on three or four sides, shake the roots and media to a loose condition and then re-plant.
January is the best month to plant trees, but, as with fruit and nut trees, selection of adapted species is critical for long-term success. Select trees for permanence and durability, not just for fast growth.
If a live Christmas tree was purchased, plant outdoors as soon as possible.
This is the time to move any perennials in your house that are in the wrong place.
Select and plant roses.
Sow wildflower seeds.
Add lime according to soil test recommendations. For best results in home landscapes, till the lime into the root zone area for the plant you intend to grow. Surface-applied lime reacts very slowly and not as completely as lime mixed into the soil. The sooner the lime is applied in the winter, the more ready you’ll be for spring planting.
Fertilize established stone fruit trees with a low-nitrogen fertilizer such as a 3:12:12 formulation with trace elements. Follow label directions.
Pansies are by far the most popular winter landscape annual. Deadhead periodically to ensure more blooms. During active growth in the spring, fertilize them about once a month. A dilute liquid feed of 5:10:10 or 5:10:30 will keep them going and growing.
Store wood ashes in sealed, fireproof containers. Apply a dusting around baby’s breath, asters, irises, lilies and roses in spring. Do not apply to acid-loving plants. Excess ashes may also be composted in moderation.
Actively growing houseplants will benefit from a half strength shot of liquid houseplant fertilizer.
Fertilize asparagus beds in late January.
Don’t fertilize newly planted trees or shrubs until after they have started to grow, and then only very lightly the first year.
Fertilize spring-flowering bulbs as they break ground toward the end of the month. Use an all-purpose granular fertilizer according to label directions, or apply a light dusting of compost.
It’s a good time to prune most of your deciduous trees and shrubs.
When pruning large limbs always undercut first. This means to cut from the bottom up, one-third of the way through the limb then finish by cutting from the top. The undercut keeps the limb from splitting and breaking off, which could damage the trunk and become an entryway for insects and diseases. Do not cut flush to the trunk; the collar or enlarged base of a branch produces hormones that help heal wounds.
Do not prune fruit trees until March, especially peaches.
Grapes should be cut back to the main structure of the plant, leaving two buds per side-shoot as a general rule.
Prune roses, but not too much. They needn’t be taken down to the ground like gardeners do in cold-weather areas.
Ornamental grass tops should be cut back now. On old established clumps, prune back to 2 feet or so with the younger plantings simply tipped back to remove the brown foliage.
Now through mid-February is the time to cut back winter-damaged, unattractive liriope, also known as monkey grass, foliage. Avoid tipping the new growth or there will be brown edges for the year to come. If you do it now before growth begins, you can use a string trimmer or the lawn mower set at its highest setting.
Open the end of drip lines and run the system for a few minutes to flush it. Flush every few months to keep your system in optimum working condition.
When watering your houseplants, which should be minimal during the winter, do it just enough so the water saturates the soil and comes through the drainage holes; at this time of year, plants left in standing water can suffer root damage.
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.
Be sure to keep an eye on all newly planted items through the winter to ensure they get enough water. An inch a week should be the goal.
Read label instructions before applying any pesticide.
Apply dormant oil to control scale and other insects on fruit trees. Wait until the temperature will be at least 70 degrees for two days following application.
Spray bare rosebushes with dormant copper spray.
Apply post-emergence weed control to actively growing broadleaf weeds in your lawn.
Cakes of suet hung in trees will attract insect-hunting woodpeckers to your garden.
Check all fruit trees for evidence of rodent injury to bark. Use baits, guards or traps where necessary.
Near the end of the month, weed the asparagus bed and strawberry plot, then feed the plants and renew the thinning mulches.
Every slug you catch before it reproduces can spare you from facing several more generations.
If you have rose bushes, rake the fallen leaves and discard them as many disease organisms persist through the winter. Covering them up with new mulch will not solve your disease problems.
On mild days, remove winter weeds such as wild onions/garlic and chickweed.
Check your houseplants for signs of insect infestations. If treatment is needed, try weekly applications of insecticidal soap or other organic treatment. The shower is a good place to apply it.
Quarantine gift houseplants until you determine they are not harboring any pests.
Make a resolution to keep a garden journal this year.
Check with your county agent to see when the next Master Gardener’s class is offered.
Always use room temperature water when watering or misting your houseplants!
Apply anti-desiccants to newly-planted evergreens.
Clean out your bluebird, wren, martin and other birdhouses to get them ready for February. Martin scouts and first-breeding birds of other species will be in town in February.
Brightly colored paints applied to the handles of tools will make them easier to locate in the garden.
Check stored fruits and vegetables such as potatoes and apples for bad spots which may lead to decay. Remove and use those which show signs of spoiling. Separate others into slotted trays or bins to increase air circulation and reduce decay possibilities.
Check stored summer bulbs such as dahlias, cannas and gladioli to be sure they are not rotting or drying out.
Could the wheelbarrow, garden wagon or hand trucks use a fresh coat of paint?
Dust on the foliage of houseplants can clog the leaf pores, so clean them up a little with a damp cloth or a quick shower under the tap.
Forsythia, jasmine, flowering almond, spirea, wisteria, redbud and quince sprays can be cut and brought into the house now for forcing.
If an unexpected warm streak fools bulbs into thinking it’s springtime, help protect them with an extra light layer of mulch.
If you can’t have spring yet ... fake it! Force crocus, hyacinth, narcissus and Lily of the Valley bulbs into bloom this month.
In preparation for icy sidewalks, go to your local Co-op and get a bag of urea. Sprinkle very lightly and the ice melts … it’s much better on your plants than salt and not nearly as messy as sand, perlite, bird seed or cat litter. Close the bag tightly to avoid clumping and a 50-pound bag should last for many years.
Inspect stakes and wires on newly planted trees to make sure they are still straight and not damaging the bark.
Make sure your plants have sufficient humidity by setting them on a tray filled with moistened, clean pebbles, or by simply setting a cup of water nearby.
Mulch, mulch, mulch. Apply a layer of three inches of bark, straw, aged manure or compost to all garden beds (over in-line drip irrigation). Leave no soil uncovered.
On cold nights, it is a good idea to close the curtains or blinds between the window and your houseplants.
Remember where you’re living! January in the Southeast can mean 70 degrees today and 20 degrees tonight. Don’t let unseasonably mild temperatures dictate what you do in the landscape.
Swap seeds and plant information with your gardening friends.
To clean and sanitize heavily encrusted clay pots, scrub them with a steel wool pad after they have soaked overnight in a solution consisting of one gallon of water and one cup each of white vinegar and household bleach.
To reduce injury, allow ice to melt naturally from plants. Attempting to remove ice may damage plants further.
Turn houseplants every two weeks for balanced foliage as they seek sunlight.
Remove spent flowers from amaryllis after blooming. Set the plant in a bright sunny window to allow the leaves to fully develop. Keep the soil evenly moist, not soggy. Fertilize occasionally with a general purpose houseplant formulation.
If you heat with wood, keep a pot of water on the stove. The added moisture will be healthier for you as well as your houseplants.
Some houseplants are sensitive to the fluorine and chlorine in tap water. Either use rainwater or allow containers of tap water to stand overnight to allow these gases to dissipate before using on plants.
To prolong bloom, protect poinsettias from drafts and keep them moderately moist.
Avoid foot traffic on frozen lawns as this may injure turf grasses.
Keep up with raking; fallen leaves can do heavy damage if left to smother grass.
Make an inventory of the plants in your home landscape. Note their location and past performance. Plan changes on paper now.
Move garden ornaments such as urns or jars into the garage or basement to prevent damage during the cold winter season. If containers are too large to move, cover them to prevent water collecting in them or turn them upside down during the winter so water will not collect and freeze in them causing breakage.
Any machine repair you have done now will spare you the long waits that begin in February. Consider mowers, chain saws and other power tools.
By the end of the month, thin onions planted in October so the plants are six to eight inches apart. This will allow maximum bulbs to develop.
If you pluck or cut individual leaves from lettuce or spinach, they will continue to produce into late spring.
Review your vegetable garden plans. Perhaps a smaller garden with fewer weeds and insects will give you more produce.