It's really hard to get motivated to do much of anything outdoors, but there are a few tasks and chores which you should do on those days when the weather is favorable!
Indoor house plants
- It’s easy to find amaryllis bulbs at retail stores this time of year. If you didn't receive one for the holidays, go out and buy one. These bulbs make a beautiful show indoors, and can help to make up for the loss of color now that the holiday decorations are being put away. Put your bulbs in a bright sunny location and water lightly until growth begins. Once you see signs of growth, make sure there is ample water but don't keep it saturated. Within six weeks you should have a stunning bloom.
- Don’t just throw out leftover poinsettias; they can keep their color long after the holidays are over, with just a little care. Remove the foil wraps and give them a basket or other basin to catch overflow water. Give them bright sunlight and even moisture and the colorful bracts can remain bright for months. When the color starts to fade, cut the plants back by half if they have grown leggy and treat them like a houseplant. Give them bright light and even moisture and wait for spring to move them outdoors.
- Garden Planning
- Design and plan the spring garden space. Early planning allows time to research plants' habits and performances. Review notes and photographs from the previous year.
- On warm days, take a look at the bare bones of your garden structure. See where plants can be placed, which plants might need to be moved, and write down your thoughts and ideas for future reference when the planting season begins.
- Continue to feed the birds! Birds will continue to nourishment.
- If your winter landscape is a bit dull, consider what plants you could add to make it more interesting. Plants with berries can brighten a winter landscape, and some have interesting bark, and foliage. A great accent plant is the contorted filbert, or Harry Lauder's Walking Stick. This twisted and gnarled plant is actually most attractive without its foliage. Hollies are loaded with berries, and so are many nandinas. Nandinas also have the advantage of red winter foliage. Some sasanqua camellias are still blooming, and the Mahonia will start to bloom in a month. If you are thinking of adding to your landscape, make sure you use plants that can add interest in every season.
- Perennials, annuals, and bulbs
You may not have gotten to all the fallen leaves_raking can still be done this month. Shredded leaves can be added as a mulch to flower beds or even the vegetable garden.
- Check your seed starting supplies and get everything on hand that you are going to need.
- Start perennials, geraniums, snapdragons, sweet peas and pansies. Many other plants such as lobelia and verbena also need to be started indoors by the end of the month to be ready for spring.
- Start ordering early from mail order sources for best seed and plant selection.
- Soil moisture levels should still be good, but do pay attention, to containerized plants outdoors, which may need some extra water, especially prior to a hard freeze.
- Pansies and other winter annuals are blooming well, provided you planted them early enough. We usually have periods of warmer weather throughout the winter, and when we do, consider adding a little extra fertilizer to your plants. Clip off the spent flowers to keep them blooming. Pansies and violas can freeze solid, then defrost and keep blooming.
- Hopefully you have planted all of your spring bulbs by now, but if you find a bag of bulbs that didn't get planted, plant them as soon as possible. Keep in mind that all spring bulbs must go through a chilling process of a minimum of twelve weeks to be able to grow tall and give you the best results. You can't hang on to those bulbs for another year_they would dry out and be lost. If you planted early, you may have noticed the foliage emerging. For many bulbs that is normal, and you need to avoid damaging it. Keep in mind some early bulbs_early crocus and daffodils can start blooming in February so their foliage should begin to appear.
- Shrubs and trees
- There are many alternatives to salt based products on sidewalks and drives. Sand or cat litter provides good traction on slick spots without damage to lawn, ornamentals, or concrete.
- This is a great time of year to take hardwood cuttings from Roses.
- If you have plants that need to be relocated to a different part of your landscape, we are smack dab in the middle of the dormant period, so move at will. You may want to pick a day that is not terribly cold. Not only will it be easier on you, but also on your plants. Pay particular attention to the roots. The tops are acclimated to cold, and can take it, but the root system has been protected by soil and mulch, and is not particularly cold hardy.
- Wrap the root ball if the move is any distance, and get them replanted ASAP. Subjecting the roots to extended cold or drying out, can lead to damaged or even dead plants.
- When the temperatures are below freezing, avoid much contact with plant material outside. Frozen plants are brittle, and limbs can be broken easily. If ice or snow are on your plants, use caution around them. Heavy loads of snow can be lightly brushed off, but stay away from ice_laden plants. You can't remove the ice without breaking off branches. If you have shrubs that are subject to winter damage_gardenias, etc._and temperatures are predicted well below 15 _ 20 degrees, a light covering with sheets, blankets, etc. can help. Avoid using plastic, which can encourage more temperature fluctuations, if the sun is out.
- Watch out for newly planted trees and shrubs, and water if needed. While the temperatures are colder, plants won't use as much water, nor will we lose it to evaporation, but some moisture may be needed if we don't get it naturally.
- Its always better to be prepared. In the event of winter damage to your outside shrubs, don't be too quick to prune. Any broken limbs or branches should be removed as quickly as you can, but if you simply have burned foliage, leave it alone until spring. Hopefully, any damage will be superficial, and the plants will bounce back on their own. If not, the damaged foliage can serve as a buffer in the event of more winter weather. Hopefully, this information will be simply reference material, and we won't have to use it this winter season.
- Fruits and veggies
- Prune Grapes.
- Prune Fruit trees and spray with Lime Sulphur and Dormant Oil to prevent insects and diseases.
- Spray Copper Spray to prevent Peach Leaf Curl.
- If you had terrible insect problems in your vegetable garden this year_particularly grubs, squash vine borers,and other soil insects, tilling your garden in the winter can help to control them. Many of these insects burrow down in the ground and spend the winter in a larval stage. Tilling can bring them closer to the surface and low temperatures can help to kill them. Don't do this if the ground is too wet, but if the soil is workable, this can help to start the season off clean.
- Lawn care :
- Stay off frozen grass.
- If you see greening up occurring in your warm-season lawns such as Bermuda, zoysia or St. Augustine, that means winter weeds are establishing themselves. Using a 2,4_D broadleaf weed killer, can stop them in their tracks_before they get large, bloom and set seeds.