January 2009
Featured Articles

January Lawn and Garden Maintenance Checklist



· Immediately move living Christmas trees outdoors.

· Plant balled-and-burlapped, container and bare-root trees, shrubs and vines.

· Plant container and bare-root roses.

· Sow seeds of warm-season annuals indoors.

· Plant bare-root perennial vegetables: asparagus, radicchio, Jerusalem artichoke, horseradish, etc.


· Do not prune spring flowering plants, like azalea, quince, forsythia, spirea, etc. This removes their spring flowers. If needed, they can be pruned when the plants have finished flowering.  


· Prune deciduous fruit trees like apple, plum, peach and apricot. Pruning promotes the development of new fruiting branches and opens the tree to sunlight.

· Turn and prune house plants regularly to keep them shapely. Pinch back new growth to promote bushy plants.


· Overwatering indoor plants encourages root rot. Water when the soil is dry to the touch.


· Every slug left to roam your garden will reproduce 200 offspring. 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. Visit your local Co-op for details.  

· January is a good time to make an application of dormant spray to help control over-wintering insect and disease problems. A combination lime sulfur and oil spray, or copper spray are the ones most often used for winter dormant spraying. Do not spray when the temperatures are below freezing, when it is raining or at a time when the wind is blowing. Of course, apply the spray according to label directions.  

· Spray apples, peaches and pears affected with canker problems.

· Keep a close eye open for insects on your houseplants. Quarantine gift plants until you determine they aren’t harboring any pests.

· If you are lucky enough to have a greenhouse, be sure to check those plants for insect infestation.

· Mealy bugs on your houseplants can be killed by touching them with a cotton swab dipped in alcohol.

· Remove aphids from houseplants with a mixture of equal parts rubbing alcohol and water, and add a drop of dishwashing detergent. Apply this to troubled plants with a soft brush.

· Review your gardening chemicals and check for deteriorating containers. Consult local authorities for acceptable ways of disposing of chemicals no longer used.



· Add garden record-keeping to the list of New Year’s resolutions. Allow space in your journal to record the dates of first and last frosts, sowing seeds, planting, transplanting, time of bloom, first fruits, fertilizing and problems with pests. Make a note of which varieties of flowers and vegetables did best and which did poorly in your garden. Over a period of years, this will be an invaluable record.

· You can also start a file where you can store articles clipped out of newspapers and magazines, or lists of ideas you want to try in the garden.  A good place to get many new ideas is by joining your local Master Gardeners Association.

· Look at the "bones" of your garden. Think about possible pathways, beds, borders, irrigation systems, lighting, sculptural and water features. This is the best time to put these in or replace ones no longer working.

· Winter is a good time to sign-up for gardening classes or seminars offered by many garden centers or town recreation offices. Or gather a group of friends to learn bonsai, compare notes on growing perennials or tropical houseplants, whatever piques your interest.

· Review your vegetable garden plans. Perhaps a smaller garden with fewer weeds and insects will give more produce.

· Check the seeds you saved and stored from last year’s garden.  Discard anything that is damp, diseased, moldy or in otherwise bad condition. 

· If the ground is workable (not frozen or too wet), now is an excellent time to turn the soil. Not only will this expose insect eggs to the effects of winter and hungry birds, the freezing will help to break apart heavy clods of dirt.

· Avoid heavy traffic on the dormant lawn. Dry grass is easily broken and the crown of the plant may be severely damaged or killed.

· Extra time now might well be spent getting the garden tools ready for spring. Sharpen and oil tools like shovels, shears, mowers, etc. Power tools like weedeaters and mowers may benefit from a good tune-up.

· Does your mower need sharpening; does the oil need changing; what about the filters; is the engine running properly? If you need to have any parts of your power garden implements repaired, this is the time to do it. If you take a mower in now, you may get it back in a few days. If you wait until mid-February or later, it will probably be two or three weeks.


· If you potted bulbs of daffodils, crocus, tulips or hyacinths in the fall, bring them indoors now to force them into bloom. Place pots in a cool window receiving direct sunlight for at least a few hours each day. Allow soil to dry partially between each watering.

· Check stored fruits and vegetables like 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.

· Force a winter bouquet from cut branches of forsythia, pussy willow, deutzia, wisteria, lilac, apple, peach or pear. Bruise the cut ends and set them in water. Spray the branches frequently. Keep them in a cool place until they bloom, then move to a warmer area for display.

· Think about how you might incorporate stones in your garden. Look into types of stone, characteristics that complement and the different roles stones play in design.

· Examine your land in the stark winter days, looking for places where an evergreen might go nicely.

· A water feature is a garden element that can take many different forms. A simple birdbath is attractive and functional while a fountain or waterfall can bring a garden to a whole new level of sophistication.

· 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.

· You can force hyacinth, paperwhite narcissus and Lily of the Valley bulbs into bloom indoors in a shallow bowl of water or in pots this month.

· Although tomatoes, peppers and eggplants self-pollinate, to insure ample fruit set in home greenhouses, take a cotton swab or a fine paintbrush and transfer the pollen from one flower to another. Swirl the swab or brush lightly inside each flower, one after the other. Repeat this process the next day. Don’t wait too long after the blossoms appear to pollinate. For most plants, the most successful pollinating can be done the day after blossoms open. If successful, you will be able to see tiny fruits as the flowers wilt.

· Get creative in the workshop. Build a bat house or a birdhouse or two. Paint garden furniture, arbors and fence segments. Construct artificial lighting set-ups for growing houseplants or starting transplants indoors.

· If you install supplemental lighting for your indoor plants, the 48-inch, 40-watt fixture with two fluorescent tubes is the industry standard. Spare parts are readily available and high production volume assures lower costs for 48-inch tubes than for other sizes. Use one cool white and one warm white tube to obtain a light mix most beneficial to plants. Plants grown under lights need a nightly rest. An automatic timer is ideal to turn the lights off at night.

· Fluorescent tubes lose intensity with age. If you are using quite a few fluorescent lamps on your houseplants, change a few tubes at a time to avoid plant damage by the sudden increase in light intensity.


· Don’t forget your houseplants! Dust on the foliage can clog the leaf pores, so clean them up a little with a damp cloth or a quick shower under the tap. Actively growing plants will benefit from a shot of liquid plant food. Make certain the plants have sufficient humidity by setting them on a tray filled with clean pebbles and a little water, or by simply setting a cup of water nearby.

· Repot houseplants and patio plants that may be pot bound. This can be determined by sliding a knife down the inside edge of the pot. If there is resistance, it means large roots have grown out the edge of the soil ball and the plant is pot bound. Remove the plant from its pot and cut away any large, circling roots on the outside of the soil ball. Pot into the next largest container using fresh potting soil.

· Transporting house plants now without cold protection for even "just a few minutes" can be detrimental. Wrap plants with three or four layers of newspaper or paper sleeves and staple the paper shut over the foliage.

· Always cut off the faded flowers of your amaryllis so no seeds form. Producing seeds robs the bulb of strength needed to flower next year.

· Allow cacti to go semi-dormant in the winter. Water only to avoid shriveling. Place in full sun with a maximum day temperature of 65o F and a night temperature of 40-50o.

· If you have succulents like jade, hoya and sansevieria, they may be reluctant to bloom in the house. Grow them in a small pot and hold back the water. This may persuade them to flower.

· Houseplants and holiday gift plants should not be placed on top of the television. This location is too warm and, in most homes, too far from windows to provide adequate light.


· The low light levels of winter call for some adjustments in the placement of houseplants. Bring houseplants that normally thrive on the north side of the house to east windows, while allowing the plants from the east more sun on the south.

· Rain is the best water for plants. Catch it in clean trash containers and siphon out what you need into watering cans. Better yet, if you have plumbing skills you can put a valve on your rain barrel and connect it to a gravity-flow drip system.

· Open the doors and windows when temperatures permit to give your house a change of air. This will benefit you and your houseplants.

· Please feed the birds and other small creatures which may not be able to find food. For only a few dollars you can feed an enormous number of birds. Birds like suet, fruit, nuts and bread crumbs as well as bird seed. You don’t have to be a bird watcher to enjoy the feeling you get when you’ve helped out one of God’s creatures.