Saturday, January 5, 2013

Gardening in January

It may be January, but there’s still plenty of puttering around for the indoor gardener—and even a few things that you can do outside.

• Check your houseplants; divide and repot any pot-bound plants. Prune judiciously.

• Place houseplants near each other to form a support group to cope with low winter humidity.

• Walk around your property and inspect trees for damage. Remove broken limbs, making a clean cut close to the trunk.

• Use a broom to gently brush heavy snow off evergreens. If branches are covered with ice, it’s best to leave them alone.

• It’s not too early to start planning your garden. Make a garden diagram drawn to scale before placing your spring order.

• Remember this rule of thumb for planning perennial gardens: The width of the garden should be about twice the height of the tallest plant growing in it.

Use this month to check your houseplants: divide and re-pot any pot-bound plants. Prune judiciously to create a compact, attractive specimen.

Keep holiday poinsettias in a sunny, cool location with high humidity.

If you have succulents such as 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.

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.

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

Provide extra protection to houseplants on window sills if it is very cold. Place cardboard between the plants and the glass. Be sure the plants don't touch the windowpanes.

Sponge off your plants or give them a good shower to remove the dust.

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.

Check any bulbs and tubers you may have stored to determine if moisture is okay. Repack bulbs that seem too damp, discarding any moldy ones. If bulbs seem too dry, try moving them to another location.

Start a garden record book now, allowing space to record the dates of first and last frosts, sowing seeds, planting, transplanting, time of bloom, first fruits, fertilizing, problems with pests, and other information. Over a period of years, this will be an invaluable record.

Make a careful study this month of three important garden subjects: fertilizers, spraying, and best seed varieties.

Check with your county extension agent to find out whether your particular area really fits into the temperature range suggested by its garden zone. Though seed companies provide information about which zones are best for growing different varieties of plants, keep in mind that considerable variation may take place within each zone.

Plan your garden and make a diagram drawn to scale before placing your spring order.

Remember this rule of thumb for planning perennial gardens: The width of the garden should be about twice the height of the tallest plant growing in it.

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

Organize, clean, oil, and sharpen garden tools. A splash of bright paint on tool handles will make them easier to spot out in the yard.

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

Visit a greenhouse or nursery near you and talk with the experts about your growing problems. Ask them about shrub varieties best for your conditions.

Remember to supply fresh water for the birds. Nuthatches, chickadees, cardinals, and juncos will enjoy any bread scraps you may have.

Gently shake or brush off snow-weighted branches that have no support. Heavy snow cover protects evergreen foliage from windburn, but too much weight will break branches.

Prune fruit trees now. The prunes can be gathered up into bundles to be used for kindling after they've dried.

Neatly trim any shrubs and hedges broken by snow. Finish all pruning of trees before the sap starts.

Examine willow and poplar trees for borers. Prune out any infested branches.

Repair all fences, arbors, and garden furniture before the real work of spring begins. In the south, prune early-flowering shrubs when they finish blooming.

Check roof edges for ice buildup, especially those areas you don't see on a daily basis. Remember that shingles will be brittle now, so be careful if chipping is necessary.

Avoid walking over the same areas of your frozen lawn or you may find bald spots in the spring.

Plant lettuce in flats this month and harvest before it's time to start some of the later seedlings. Artificial light may be required, but the air should not be too hot.

Start some annual flowers this month. Good picks include marigolds, sweet peas, stattice, impatiens, petunias, and snapdragons.

Choose some perennials to start now from seed. Delphinium, Shasta daisy, carnation, digitalis, and armeria are good choices.

Start geranium, begonia, vinca, and viola seeds now for spring and summer bloom. Begonia and vinca seeds are among the hardest to germinate, so don't be discouraged if your success rate is low or irregular.

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