Whether you are hoping for a big harvest, a beautiful landscape, or a little stress relief, knowing the when and how of gardening will help you be a success. Use these timely garden tips to eliminate some of the guesswork. For more gardening tips, check out Melinda's gardening books.
Recycle old catalogs as new ones arrive. Check with schools, churches, and daycare centers that may be able to put the pretty photos to work in craft projects. Or contact horticulture students and master gardeners that may be interested in using the catalogs as a reference or the photos for creating references or in school projects.
Gardening Tips for Flowers
Start bringing forced bulbs out of cold storage. Move to a cool sunny location once they have been chilled for 12 to 15 weeks. Water thoroughly and whenever the top few inches of soil begins to dry. Stagger the starting time to extend your indoor bloom.
Adjust your watering schedule to match the needs of coleus, geraniums, fuchsias and other annuals overwintered as houseplants. The shorter days combined with less intense sunlight and low humidity of winter changes the plants' needs. Water the soil thoroughly and wait until the soil is slightly dry before watering again.
Also, do not be overanxious to fertilize your overwintering annuals. The poor growing conditions found indoors during the winter results in slow plant growth that requires very little, if any fertilizer. Only fertilize plants with stunted growth, yellow leaves or other signs of nutrient deficiencies.
Gardening Tips for Edibles
Monitor herbs and other indoor plants for aphids and mites. These insects suck out plant juices, causing them to yellow and brown. You may see a clear, sticky substance on the leaves. Spray infested plants with insecticidal soap. You may need to apply several applications one week apart for adequate control. This is safe for the herbs and all who eat them.
Check winter mulches on strawberries. Replace any that were dislodged in bad weather. Can't see the mulch through the snow? That's great! Snow is the best insulation available. In the Great Lakes region we're experiencing warmer than normal temperatures and a lack of snow. The constant freezing and thawing is hard on plants. The shifting soil can push bulbs and perennials out of the ground. So save the discarded Christmas tree, evergreen boughs and straw. Apply these materials once the soil freezes. Mulching warm soil provides a great habitat for plant-eating rabbits and rodents and can harm the plants. Winter mulch will protect overwintering flower buds and prevent the plants from frost heaving.
Trees, Shrubs and Roses
Do not shake heavy snow and ice off the branches of trees and shrubs. This can cause more damage than if the snow was left in place. Make a note on your calendar to prevent plant damage next season. Apply winter protection in late October or November before the heavy snow arrives.
Check ornamental plums and cherries for Eastern tent caterpillar egg masses. The eggs look like a shiny glob of mud on the stem. Prune and destroy all that are found. While you're at it, check these same plants for black knot cankers. This fungal disease causes branches to swell, eventually turn black, and crack open, releasing infectious spores. Prune out infected branches below the swollen areas. Burn or bury cankered branches to reduce future infections. Disinfect your tools between cuts with rubbing alcohol or a solution of one part bleach to nine parts water.
Lawns and Groundcovers
Make a note of areas where snow and ice tend to linger. These are prime candidates for snow mold and other problems. Damaged turf will be matted and covered with gray or pink fungus in the spring.
Draw a sketch of the lawn. Mark any areas where water and ice collect, snow is slow to recede, and deicing salts may cause damage. Add "filling in low spots and improving drainage problems" to your spring To-do list. These changes will improve the health and beauty of your lawn while decreasing disease problems. Plan to rake these areas of the lawn as the snow and ice recede. A light raking helps reduce the risk of snow mold.
Watch for vole activity. These rodents scurry beneath the snow eating weeds, chewing on bark, and wearing a trail in the lawn. Be prepared to do a little raking and overseeding in the spring.
Tips for Indoor Plants
As the temperatures get bitterly cold this month, you may need to sacrifice some sunlight to keep your plants warm. Move plants away from windows, especially drafty ones, and keep the curtains and blinds between the cold windows and the plants. Never trap plants between the curtains and windows where they can suffer cold damage.
Give your plants a bit of tender loving care. Wipe the dust off glossy-leaved plants. Use a soft cosmetic branch to dust African violet and other hairy-leaved plants. Remove faded flowers and prune off insect-infected, broken, or wayward branches. Save major pruning for late February.
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