I have long sought the whimsical and humorous quip or quote on the month of January, when – traditionally – writer’s block sets in like a hippo, refusing to leave it’s mud hole on the Nile, and you think that you feet will never be warm again, ever in life.
I have failed miserably.
I have, however, found that Freecycle is my friend and have sourced a number of rolling wire racks and heating pads in my quest for a seed starting system that is really going to work for me.
The dark days of winter have brought the usual seed catalogs to make the dreams of spring more vibrant. Baker’s, as always, is a bright spot and my daughters and I have spent several evenings, cuddled up in bed, leafing through the already dog-eared pages. If you haven’t already, do check out http://www.rareseeds.com and request their print catalog where you’ll find an exquisite array of heirloom seeds. It’s a calorie-free treat you won’t soon forget!
And now…On with our tasks for walking through the door of the New Year:
- Keep a garden journal. Consult your journal in the winter, so that you can better plan for the growing season.
- Check with local retail garden or nursery stores for seeds and seed catalogs, and begin planning this year’s vegetable garden.
- Have soil test performed on garden plot to determine nutrient needs.
- Take hardwood cuttings of deciduous ornamental shrubs and trees for propagation.
- Plan to replace varieties of ornamental plants that are susceptible to disease with resistant cultivars in February.
Maintenance and Clean Up
- Clean pruners and other small garden tools with rubbing alcohol.
- Reapply or redistribute mulches that have blown or washed away during winter.
- Place windbreaks to protect sensitive landscape evergreens against cold, drying winds.
- Do not walk on lawns until frost has melted.
- Water landscape plants underneath wide eaves and in other sites shielded from rain.
Pest Monitoring and Management
- Monitor landscape plants for problems. Don’t treat unless a problem is identified.
- Scout cherry trees for signs and symptoms of bacterial canker. Remove infected branches with a clean pruner or saw. Sterilize tools before each new cut. Burn or send to landfill before bloom.
- Watch for field mice damage on lower trunks of trees and shrubs. Eliminate hiding places by removing weeds. Use traps or rescue a fabulous hunting cat from the humane society.
- Use dormant sprays of lime sulfur or copper fungicide on roses for general disease control, or, plan to replace susceptible varieties with resistant cultivars in February.
- Moss in your lawn may mean too much shade or poor drainage. Modify site conditions if moss is bothersome.
- Mid-January: Spray peach trees with approved fungicides to combat peach leaf curl and shothole. Or plant curl-resistant cultivars.
- Identify problems before acting, and opt for the least toxic approach. Cultural, physical and biological controls are the cornerstones of a sustainable pest management program. Use chemical controls only after you identify a pest problem, determine if there are no other less invasive alternatives and carefully read the pesticide label. Least-toxic choices are insecticidal soaps, horticultural oils, botanical insecticides and organic and synthetic pesticides.
Houseplants and Indoor Gardening
- Monitor houseplants for correct water and fertilizer; guard against insect infestations; clean dust from leaves.
- Protect sensitive plants such as weeping figs from cold drafts in the house.
- Propagate split-leaf philodendrons and other leggy indoor plants by air-layering or vegetative cuttings.
- Plant dwarf annual flowers inside for houseplants: coleus, impatiens, and seedling geraniums.
- Gather branches of quince, forsythia, and flowering cherries; bring indoors to force early bloom.