January Garden Tips
Gardening in January? Absolutely! There are still lots of things you can plant, and you start the new year on the right foot by doing timeless chores that will add to your garden's health as spring approaches. Everything you accomplish now will make spring that much sweeter.
- To prolong blooms, protect poinsettias from drafts and keep them moderately moist.
- Turn and prune house plants regularly to keep them shapely. Pinch new growth to promote bushy plants.
- Check all house plants for insect infestation.
- Over watering indoor plants encourages root rot. Water when the soil is dry to the touch.
- On extremely cold nights, draw the window shades or slip lengths of protective cardboard between plants and glass. Move the most tender plants away from the window panes on the coldest nights.
- Fluorescent tubes lose intensity with age. If you are using quite a few fluorescent lamps, change a few tubes at a time to avoid plant damage by the sudden increase in light intensity.
- Mealy bugs on your house plants can be killed by touching them with a cotton swab dipped in alcohol.
- House plants with large leaves and smooth foliage (philodendrons, dracaena, rubber plant, etc.) benefit if their leaves are washed at intervals to remove dust and grime, helping keep the leaf pores open.
- Amaryllis bulbs may not bloom if they are in too large of a pot. There should be no more than 1 inch of space on each side of the bulb. At least one third of the bulb should be above the soil line.
- Always cut off the faded flowers of your amaryllis so no seeds form. Producing seeds rob the bulb of strength that should go to next years flowers.
- The Chinese evergreen is a foliage plant that will survive even in a dark basement apartment. Its silver-splashed leaves will grow well at very low light levels and it takes a minimum of care, as long as night temperatures don't drop much below 65 degrees F.
- Allow cacti to go semi-dormant in the winter. Water only to avoid shriveling. Place in full sun with a maximum day temperature of 65 F, and night temperature of 40 to 50 F.
Lawn and Landscaping
•Dried, crushed shells from shrimp, crabs, and lobsters can be sprinkled on the soil to enrich it with calcium. A fertilizer made from crab shell wastes is already on the market.
•Plan to attend the garden and landscape meetings and clinics arranged by Extension agents. The latest and best gardening information will be presented.
•Avoid walking on dormant lawns. Dry grass is easily broken and the crown of the plant may be damaged or killed.
Perennials, Annuals and Bulbs
•Seeds of celery, celeriac, sweet Spanish onion, parsley, anise, fibrous rooted begonia, snap-dragon, verbena, geranium, and petunia can be sown indoors now for transplanting outdoors later in the spring.
•On warm days, check to see if any perennials have been heaved by freezing and thawing of soil. Firmly press down any that have lifted and cover with at least 2 inches of organic mulch.
•Potted Hens and Chicks (Sempervivum spp.) can liven up winter patios. These hardy succulents can remain outdoors year round and are especially prolific when placed in clay strawberry pots. Winter color can range from green to a pink or purple cast.
•If a few, consecutive, warm days have caused your bulbs to nose out from under protective mulch, plan to thicken the mulch layer as soon as cold weather returns to prevent freezing by exposure.
•Add your Christmas evergreens, including Christmas tree branches, to your perennial beds for added mulch. Remove the material in the spring and compost it.
•You may start ageratum, baby's breath, begonia, statice, pansy, sweet pea and snapdragon seed indoors this month or next. Provide plenty of light.
•Start seeds of these and other slow-developing flowers in January or February: alyssum, coleus, dusty miller, geraniums, impatiens, marigolds, petunias, phlox, portulaca, salva, vinca and verbana.
Trees, Shrubs and Groundcovers
•On mild winter days, remember to water window boxes or other outside containers planted with evergreens.
•Fertilize broad-leaved evergreens in the winter or early spring.
•For large shade trees needing removal of storm-damaged limbs, call an arborist or tree surgeon now to get on their schedule for pruning while the trees and underlying landscape plants are dormant.
•Check guy wires on trees planted in the fall. Stakes may need to be re-secured if they have been heaved out of the soil by frost. Remember to remove guy wires in spring after root growth has started. Trees move with the wind grow stronger than those support for too long.
•Winter is the time to apply miscible oil sprays to kill overwintering mites, aphids, and scale on deciduous trees and shrubs. Spray miscible oils when temperatures are above 40°F, but not within 24 hours of a freeze.
•When choosing a location for new shrubs and trees, remember spots that are sunny in the garden now may be shady in the spring or summer.
•Stamp down snow near young trees to discourage mice from nesting under the snow around them and damaging the roots or bark.
•Trees and shrubs have an economic value. If killed or damaged by ice or accident, they may be covered by homeowner's insurance.
•Don't delay planting a live Christmas tree, especially if it has been the house 3 days or more.
•Borderline hardy plants, such as aucuba, camellia, and gardenia, can be protected by a mound of soil or compost placed over the crown after the ground surface freezes.
•Some plants that should be pruned in later winter or early spring are hydrangea, butterfly bush, Rose-of-Sharon, hibiscus and other summer-flowering shrubs that flower on new growth. Prune spring-bloomers, such as azaleas, right after they flower.
•Seeds requiring stratification, such as many of the woody ornamentals, should be started to condition now. Plant them in your cold frame or put them in your freezer for the required amount of time.
- Review your vegetable garden plans. Perhaps a smaller garden with fewer weeds and insects will give you more produce.
- When reviewing your garden catalogs for new vegetable varieties to try, an important consideration is improved insect and/or disease resistance. Watch also for drought-tolerant types.
Tools and Equipment
- Sterilize your tools, pots, and anything you use around your plants using one part bleach to nine parts water. Soak for about 15 minutes, rise and dry.
- Do some reading on trickle irrigation this winter. Installing a trickle system will save you time and water and increase your garden yield.
- Now is a good time to read all of those horticultural magazines and garden books that were put aside during the busy holiday season.
- Draw a map of your garden. Beds stay in the same place year after year, but the crops rotate each year. Use the bck of the plan to make notes. Keep each year's plan in a binder for easy cross-checking of varieties rotations, etc. If you are spreading the ashes from your woodburning stove in your garden, be aware that, over time, you are raising the pH of your soil. Have your soil tested before applying any more wood ashes.
- As you look through seed catalogs, choose disease-resistant varieties. They not only make gardening easier, they reduce expenses and environmental pollution from pesticides.
- In Europe, cut foliage is no longer used just as "filler" for flower arrangements. Arrangements devoid of flowers are becoming very popular. Experiment with the look using some species such as dracena, holly, blue spruce and pine.
- Feed the birds regularly and see that they have water. Birds like suet, fruit, nuts, and bread crumbs as well as bird seed. They won't complain if the food is stale.
- Don't wait until late in the winter to order seed. Many varieties sell out early.
- A fun, indoor project is building bird boxes for the upcoming nesting season. These can be elaborate or simple. Consult your local Extension Office for easy plans.
- A solution to deer problems in your garden, found effective in Louisiana, is rotten eggs. A mixture of 12 to 18 eggs in 5 gallons of water sprayed over an acre emits enough odor to repel deer, but not offend the gardener.
- Seeds stored under warm, moist conditions deteriorate rapidly. Unless you are sure your seeds were stored under cool, dry conditions, it is safer to buy new packets each season.
- Save plastic mesh bags in which oranges usually come. They make ideal storage sacks for air drying gourds, bulbs, and herbs.
- When using salt to melt ice on walks and driveways, spread it carefully to avoid damage to nearby shrubs. Consider using sand or sawdust instead.