A live Christmas tree should be planted as soon as possible. Do not leave the root ball exposed to freezing temperatures after removing the tree from the house.
Do your research; just because a plant looks good in a catalog doesn’t mean it will survive in your area.
Do you have daffodils that you forgot to plant in December? If so, plant them as soon as possible. As long as the bulbs are still firm, they are good and they will come up in the spring – they may not bloom like they would if planted earlier, but they will be there for following years.
If you want to force some bulbs to bloom for a little indoor color in early spring, plant tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, etc. in pots indoors now.
Repot any indoor, pot-bound plants.
This is a good time to move plants, especially roses.
This is also an excellent time to plant trees and shrubs. The ground can be very wet in January, but, if you can find a dry time to do it, get them in the ground. The roots will begin to grow during the remainder of the winter and they will get a head start on the stressful heat and drought of summer.
When Bonnie onion and cabbage transplants are available at the Co-op, plant them in the garden beneath a row cover.
Leaf lettuces and other salad greens can be planted beginning in mid-January through March. They will need the protection of row cover or a sheet on extremely cold nights, but a fresh harvest for the dinner salad makes it well worth the effort.
Sow wildflower seeds.
Add cooled fireplace ashes to your compost pile (in moderation).
Do not feed houseplants in January. Give them a rest.
Feed winter-blooming pansies with a bloom-boosting fertilizer.
Have your soil tested to determine if supplements are needed.
If your winter vegetables are looking yellow, add some nitrogen 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.
Grapes should be cut back to the main structure of the plant, leaving two buds per side shoot as a general rule.
Cut back ornamental grasses, as well as liriope and mondo grass, before spring growth begins.
Hold off on pruning spring-flowering shrubs until after they bloom.
Now that you can see problems with deciduous trees and shrubs, it’s time to prune. Always make clean cuts at a branch collar.
This is a good time to contact an arborist to do tree work. Business can be slower and therefore prices better this time of year.
Berry brambles need to be cut back, spent canes removed and new sucker growth controlled.
Continue to fill humidity trays to keep plants like African violets and orchids from succumbing to the dry air.
Make sure your water for houseplants is room temperature. Water less than you would when plants are growing actively. In the winter, houseplants need less water.
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.
This is a good time to eliminate slugs. Every one left to roam the garden will produce 200 offspring this spring, summer and fall. In addition, the offspring will also produce 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, apply 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 for the winter. Do not apply when temperatures are below freezing and apply when temperatures will be above freezing for at least 24 hours.
Apply post-emergence weed control to actively growing broadleaf weeds. Read label instructions.
Rake fallen rose leaves and discard them as many disease organisms persist through the winter. Covering them up with new mulch will not solve your disease problems.
Check for animal damage on your plants, you might need to apply more repellent.
Start a gardening journal or blog. Good recordkeeping is essential. A journal can be very rewarding and full of useful information 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!
Build fences and walkways, and install trellises and structures before the vines start growing.
Clean and sharpen tools during days you can’t play in the soil.
Clean out birdhouses and/or put up new ones. Bluebirds, martins and some other songbirds start scouting for spring nest boxes in February.
Clean up planting beds and reapply mulch.
Give extra protection to houseplants on chilly nights by closing drapes and making sure plants don’t touch cold glass.
Houseplants can become susceptible to spider mites around this time of year. You can deter them by spritzing the leaves with water.
If the soil dries out enough to work, prepare a spot for the late February planting of peas and kale. Also, if the soil isn’t too wet, fall-planted cover crops can be turned under.
Inspect and repair leaky or water-damaged sheds, porches and garden structures.
Inspect stored fruits and vegetables such as apples and potatoes for decay. Throw away any that look spoiled and increase air circulation to reduce further damage.
It’s not too early to force flowering quince and forsythia branches. Cut sprays at varying lengths, mash the ends with a hammer and submerge in a tub of cool water for several hours or overnight. Then arrange in a vase and place in a bright, but cool, window.
Keep houseplants clean by gently wiping or rinsing.
Light or lack thereof can be a problem for plants this time of year. Supplement natural light with grow lights or move plants to a south- or west-facing window.
Remember not to walk or drive on frozen grass.
Rework your garden design. Study those seed catalogues and garden articles to plan your next gardening season.
Suet is a high-energy food for birds during the winter. See your local Co-op store for their selection.
Turn houseplants every two weeks for balanced foliage as they seek sunlight.
Take hardwood cuttings of deciduous ornamental shrubs and trees for propagation.
Inspect stakes and wires on newly planted trees to make sure they are still straight and not damaging the bark.
Could the wheelbarrow, garden wagon or hand trucks use a fresh coat of paint?
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.
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 steel-wool pad after soaking for 12 hours.
Check with your county Extension agent to see when the next Master Gardener’s class is offered. They’re a fine group of people who want to spread the love of gardening to anyone who’ll listen … and you will have to look long and hard before you find a better organization in which to invest your time.