Indoors, start seeds of perennials or slow-growing annuals such as coleus and geraniums beneath lights.
Late in the month, sow beets, carrots, radishes, cress, bok choy and garden peas directly in the garden; cover the planting rows with dark compost to warm the soil.
Plant seeds of herbs such as dill and parsley.
Try sprouting a test sample of leftover seeds before ordering new seeds for spring. (Roll up 10 seeds in a damp paper towel. Keep moist and warm. Check for germination in a week. If fewer than half sprout, buy fresh seed.)
Go ahead and incorporate some fruit trees in your landscape.
When Bonnie Plants onion, cabbage, broccoli and chard transplants are available, plant them in the garden beneath a row cover.
Add lime according to soil test recommendations. For best results in home landscapes, till the lime into the root zone area for whatever 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.
Store wood ashes in sealed, fireproof containers. Apply a dusting around baby’s breath, asters, lilies and roses in spring. Do not apply to acid-loving plants. Excess ashes may be composted.
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.
Apply a light application of fertilizer to established pansy plantings. Use one-half pound of ammonium sulfate per 100 square feet of bed area. Repeat the application every four to six weeks, depending on rainfall. Dried blood meal is also an excellent source of fertilizer for pansies.
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.
Pansies are by far the most popular winter landscape annual. Deadhead periodically to ensure more blooms.
Ornamental grass tops should be cut back.
Grapes should be cut back to the main structure of the plant, leaving two buds per side shoot as a general rule.
Berries need to be cut back, spent canes removed and new sucker growth controlled.
Most trees can have dead limbs removed, suckers trimmed off, old seedpods removed, lanky growths trimmed and crisscrossing limbs controlled any time of year.
Turn and prune houseplants regularly to keep them shapely. Pinch back new growth to promote bushy plants.
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.
Some plants are sensitive to the fluorine and chlorine in tap water. Water containers should stand overnight to allow these gases to dissipate before using on plants.
Always use pesticides only according to the label instructions.
This is a good time to eliminate slugs. Every one 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.
If you have bugs or diseases in your garden and you want to get a head start, consider applying dormant oil (also known as horticultural oil) especially to roses, broadleaf evergreens and fruit trees. The oils are effective and ecologically friendly. They work by smothering the insects hiding out for the winter. Do not apply when temperatures are below freezing; apply when temperatures will be above freezing for at least 24 hours.
Bird feeders and suet blocks may attract raccoons and possums. Store bird seed in a secure place and hang your feeders in locations where only birds can reach them.
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 guards, baits or traps where necessary.
Check all houseplants closely for insect infestations. Quarantine gift plants until you determine that they are not harboring any pests.
Fencing, plant choice and landscape design can help make your yard and garden less attractive to nuisance wildlife.
Fluffy, white mealy bugs on houseplants are easily killed by touching them with a cotton swab soaked in rubbing alcohol.
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.
Most of the maintenance chores and home garden tips for January deal with soil preparation. If the soil has thawed in your area, it’s a good idea to turn it. This will start to break up the frozen layers as well as exposing insect eggs and larvae for the birds to take care of. In addition, if it freezes again, it will kill any exposed pests.
Mothballs are not animal repellents and they are not meant to be used outside.
On mild days, remove winter weeds such as wild onions and chickweed.
While considering seed for the spring season, look for plants with improved insect, disease and drought tolerance.
The importance of recordkeeping can’t be stressed enough. A journal can be very rewarding and full of useful information to you in the future. If you’d rather do it online and publicly, start a blog! Take photos of everything. In years to come, you will look at your older photos and be amazed at how things have changed!
Amaryllis aftercare: Remove spent flower 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.
Avoid heavy traffic on the dormant lawn. Dry grass is easily broken and the crown of the plant may be severely damaged or killed.
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 that may lead to decay. Remove and use those showing 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.
Clean and sharpen tools.
Could the wheelbarrow, garden wagon or hand truck use a fresh coat of paint?
During the winter, most houses are too dry for houseplants. Humidity may be increased by placing plants on trays lined with pebbles and filled with water to within a half inch of the base of the pot. 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 plants.
Enroll in gardening classes! Check with your local Extension office and find out what’s available. If you’re not already, check with them about becoming a Master Gardener!
Houseplants with large leaves and smooth foliage such as philodendrons, dracaena and rubber plant benefit if their leaves are washed at intervals to remove dust and grime to help keep their leaf pores open.
If weather permits, cover crops, planted in the fall, can be turned under.
If you haven’t already, 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.
Keep up with raking; fallen, wet leaves can do major 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.
Near the end of the month, weed the asparagus bed and strawberry plot, feed the plants and renew mulches in the beds.
Reapply mulch where needed.
Remember where we live. Don’t let unseasonably mild temperatures dictate what you do in the landscape. Temperatures can change drastically here. Be prepared for more winter weather.
Start a gardening journal.
To clean crusty clay pots, add one cup each of white vinegar and household bleach to a gallon of warm water and soak the pots. For heavily crusted pots, scrub with a stiff brush and/or steel wool pad after soaking for 12 hours. After the deposits are removed, rinse the pots in clear water.
Use the branches from your live Christmas tree to protect tender perennials.
Feed the birds regularly and see that they have water. Birds like suet, fruit, nuts and bread crumbs as well as bird seed.