When Bonnie Plants’ 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.
If you didn’t get them out this past fall, sow wildflower seeds.
Try sprouting a test sample of leftover seeds before buying 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, get fresh seed.)
If a live Christmas tree was purchased, plant it outdoors as soon as possible.
If you are thinking of adding any fruit, flowering or shade trees to the garden, this would be a good time to select and plant them. Do your research; just because a plant looks good in a catalog doesn’t mean it will survive in your area.
For outdoor winter fragrance, consider planting paperbush plant (Edgeworthia chrysantha), winter honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima), winter jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum) and/or silverberry (Elaeagnus ebbingei). They may not bloom this winter but next year you’ll have the sweetest-smelling yard on the block!
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 readier your lawn will be for spring planting.
Actively growing houseplants will benefit from a half-strength shot of liquid houseplant fertilizer.
Store wood ashes in sealed, fireproof containers. Apply a dusting around peonies, baby’s breath, asters, lilies and roses in spring. Do not apply to acid-loving plants. Excess ashes may be composted in moderation.
Fertilize asparagus beds in late January.
Don’t fertilize newly set-out 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.
Damaged limbs should be pruned off promptly to prevent bark from tearing.
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.
Forsythia, jasmine and quince sprays can be cut and brought into the house now for forcing. The warmth in the home will bring some early blooms to your room.
January is a great month to prune most deciduous trees and shrubs. Fruit, flowering and shade trees can be pruned at this time. Do not prune spring-flowering plants such as quince, forsythia, spirea, etc. as you would be removing their spring flowers. If needed, these plants can be pruned when the plants have finished flowering.
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.
Now through mid-February is the time to cut back winter-damaged, unattractive liriope (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.
Ornamental grass tops should be cut back now. On old, established clumps, prune back to 2 feet or so; younger plantings should simply be tipped back to remove the brown foliage.
If your aging ornamental grass has died in the center, try cutting the dead out with a Sawzall to about 10 inches deep. Fill the void with compost or good garden soil and it should fill back in.
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 houseplants 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.
When you water your houseplants, which should be minimal during the winter, do it just enough so that water saturates the soil and comes through the drainage holes; at this time of year, plants left in standing water can easily suffer root damage.
Quarantine new gift plants to be sure they do not harbor any insect pests.
Fluffy, white mealy bugs on houseplants are easily killed by touching them with a cotton swab soaked in rubbing alcohol.
Insecticidal soap sprays can be safely applied to most houseplants for the control of many insect pests.
While reviewing garden catalogs, look for plants with improved insect, disease and drought tolerance.
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 or traps where necessary.
Dormant spraying of fruit trees, cotoneaster, dogwoods, etc. should be done this month. Follow the label’s instructions and avoid spraying on days that are windy, rainy or below freezing.
Use an all-purpose spray (not dormant spray) on evergreen ornamentals to protect against red spiders, thrips and scales.
Near the end of the month, weed the asparagus bed and strawberry plot, feed the plants and renew the thinning mulches.
This is a good time to eliminate slugs. Every one left will produce 200 offspring this spring, summer and fall. In addition, the offspring will produce young. So you can make a major reduction in the slug population by eliminating them now.
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.
Review last year’s garden journal and start a new one for this year by recording your seed/plant orders. Make an inventory of the plants in your landscape. Note their location and past performance. Plan changes in your journal now.
Check with your county agent (Alabama Cooperative Extension System) to see when the next Master Gardener’s class is offered in your area.
Repair or have maintenance done on mowers, chainsaws and other power tools.
Sharpen and oil tools such as shovels, hoes, shears, machetes and scythes.
Does the wheelbarrow, garden wagon or hand trucks need a fresh coat of paint?
Brightly colored paints applied to the handles of tools will make them easier to locate in the garden … while you have the paint out for the wheelbarrow.
If the ground is workable (not too wet), now is an excellent time to turn the soil in existing beds. Not only will this expose insect eggs to the effects of winter and hungry birds but freezing will help to break apart heavy clods of dirt.
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.
Avoid heavy traffic on the dormant lawn. Dry grass is easily broken and the crown of the plant may be severely damaged or killed.
To reduce injury, allow ice to melt naturally from plants. Attempting to remove ice may damage plants further.
Check your stored bulbs, vegetables and fruit.
To clean the inside walls of heavily encrusted clay pots, scrub them with a steel wool pad after they have soaked overnight in a solution consisting of one gallon water with one cup of white vinegar added. After the deposits are removed, rinse the pots in clear water. A brief soak in a solution of one gallon of water with one cup household bleach added will help sanitize the pots.
Use sand, bird seed, cat litter, sawdust or vermiculite to gain traction on icy paths. Avoid salt or ice melters as these may injure plants.
Turn houseplants every two weeks for balanced foliage as they seek sunlight.
Wash dust off houseplant leaves on a regular basis with room-temperature water. This allows the leaves to gather light more efficiently and will result in better growth.
Set the pots of humidity-loving houseplants on trays filled with pebbles and water. Pots should sit on the pebbles, not in the water.
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.
The natural summer and fall food supply has either been eaten, has died or is frozen, and insects have entered their next stage of development as larvae inactive until spring. Feed the birds and provide them with some unfrozen water. Just a few dollars spent on wild bird seed can go a long way.