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MONTHLY GARDENING TIPS
“In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.”
Private shade garden, Garden Tour, July, 2018
Field Trip to Blithewold Mansion Gardens, August 2018
Private garden tour, Garden Tour, July 2018
GARDENING TIPS BULLETIN: WINTER (From UCONN)
WINTER GARDENING TIPS
Annuals and Perennials
- When you are finished with holiday evergreen boughs, use them to mulch tender perennials and shrubs.
- Seasonal decorations of poinsettia or cyclamen will continue to bloom with proper care. Keep the soil moist but remove foil wrapping to allow the water to drain out. Place your plant in a cool (60 to 65 degrees F) location that gets plenty of light.
- Feed the birds regularly and see that they have water. Birds like suet, fruit, nuts and breadcrumbs as well as birdseed.
- Check for frost heaving on perennials during thaws and press back into place. Cover the crowns with extra mulch as necessary.
- Start seeds of pansies, dusty miller, browallia, begonias, snapdragons, and delphiniums indoors under lights. By February, you can start small-seeded flowers such as begonias and petunias.
- Inspect stored bulbs, tubers and corms for rot or infestation. Discard those showing signs of decay or insect damage.
- Root geranium cuttings for use later in the season.
- On frigid nights protect indoor plants from freezing; move them away from window panes or cover panes with a shade or cardboard.
- Houseplants with large leaves and smooth foliage such as philodendrons, dracaena and rubber plant benefit if their leaves are washed at intervals to remove dust and grime, helping keep the leaf pores open.
- During the winter most homes are too dry for houseplants. Mist your houseplants or increase humidity by placing plants on trays lined with pebbles and filled with water to within one half inch of the base of the pot. Run a humidifier or, if you heat with wood, keep a pot of water on the stove. The added moisture will be healthier for you as well as your plants. mist often or place plants over a tray of moist pebbles.
- Turn and prune houseplants regularly to keep them shapely. Pinch back new growth to promote bushy plants.
- Houseplants will benefit from fertilizer applications once or twice this winter.
- Houseplants such as geranium that grow tall and leggy probably need supplemental light. Move them to a brighter location or consider investing in fluorescent lights. Or cut them back by half, repot the plants in fresh soil and set them in a cool, bright window.
- The cyclamen with its unique blossoms needs to be kept cool and evenly moist. High temperatures, too little water, or too low light may cause leaves to yellow and drop. With proper care the plant should continue to bloom for six to eight weeks.
- Poinsettias need good drainage, so if the pot is still wrapped in foil, remove the foil or make a hole in the bottom to allow the water to drain out. Keep soil moist, but don't overwater. Place your plant in a cool (60 to 65° F) location that gets plenty of light. Keep out of warm or cool drafts, and fertilize once a month to prolong the life of the foliage and bracts.
- Check all house plants closely for insect infestations. Quarantine gift plants until you determine that they are not harboring any pests. Inspect under leaves for infestations of whitefly and spider mites; check between leaves and stems for white, cottony mealybugs, and look under leaves and on stems for scale insects. Apply insecticidal soap or another low toxicity insecticide, crush or brush off as appropriate.
- Spider mites may be a problem for your houseplants because of the dry indoor air. Look for the symptoms they cause- stippling on leaves and fine webbing on new growth. Spray them with insecticidal soap 2 to 3 times a week to kill the mites or small plants can be put over the sink and blasted with water. Remove pests by hand and spray with insecticidal soap if needed.
- When buying houseplants in winter, be sure to wrap them well for the trip home and, if possible warm up the car. This prevents the foliage from freezing and protects tropicals from drafts.
- Clean clay pots by soaking overnight in a solution of 1-gallon water and 1 cup of vinegar. Scrub to remove deposits. Repeat if necessary.
- If you potted bulbs for forcing last fall, check their progress. Soil should be barely moist. If tips have sprouted and have a few inches of growth, bring the pot into a cool, bright room (50 to 60 degrees F). Gradually expose the plant to increasing warmth, indirect sunlight, and increased watering. Feed once a week with half-strength houseplant fertilizer. To help the stems grow straight, turn the pot every day. When buds and foliage are fully developed, bring into full sunlight, and enjoy!
- In February, cut back geraniums, hibiscus, and other houseplants for repotting next month.
- Begin fertilizing houseplants with a water-soluble fertilizer as they resume active growth.
- Keep pinching over-wintering coleus, they tolerate major cutting back and routine pinching to encourage bushy growth. New plants can be propagated with the cuttings.
In the Vegetable and Fruit Garden
- Do not wait until late in the winter to order seeds as many of the seed companies most popular varieties sell out early. Reorder successful varieties as well as those you wish to try again. Suggestion: Plan your seed order with a friend or neighbor so that you can sample more varieties as well as save on shipping costs.
- When placing your seed and plant orders, keep in mind that many seeds have improved insect and/or disease resistance. Watch also for drought-tolerant types.
- To determine how many seeds to order, map out your garden on graph paper, allowing adequate space between rows and ample room for vining crops such as pumpkins and winter squash.
- Purchase seed flats, containers, and peat pellets. Check your cold frame for needed repairs.
- Turn the compost pile during any stretches of mild weather
- If you’re starting seeds under fluorescent lights, check the light tubes for signs of age. Dark rings on the ends of tubes means they should be replaced. Dispose of properly.
- Check stored fruits and vegetables such as potatoes and apples for bad spots which may lead to decay. Remove and use those which show signs of spoiling. Separate others into slotted trays or bins to increase air circulation and reduce decay possibilities.
- Plant celery, leek and onion seeds in January. They need 10 to 12 weeks of growth before going in the garden.
- In mid-late February, start seeds of onions, leeks, broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower indoors under lights.
- This is a good time to finish up your seed order, if you haven't done so already.
- When planning your vegetable garden, remember to rotate crops.
- Prune grape vines at the end of February. Order bare-root fruit trees.
- Prune currants at the end of February. On a mild day, remove all deadwood and low shoots that are over 3 years old. Prune to an outward-facing bud. Prune apple and pear trees as the weather allows.
Trees and Shrubs
- Take walks around the garden to check for ice and snow damage to shrubs, evergreens, and trees.Brush snow from evergreens as soon as possible after a storm. Use a broom in an upward, sweeping motion. Serious damage may be caused by heavy snow or ice accumulating on the branches.
- Analyze last year's planting, fertilizing and spraying records. 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.
- After the snow melts, flush the area around the roots exposed to salt with fresh water.
- Prop up ice covered branches and wait for the ice to melt instead of attempting to remove it.
- Prune away storm-damaged branches promptly to prevent tearing of the bark. When pruning large limbs, always undercut first. This means to cut from the bottom up, one-third of the way through the limb, then finish by cutting from the top. The undercut keeps the limb from splitting and breaking off, which could damage the trunk and become an entryway for insects and diseases. Do not cut flush to the trunk as the collar or enlarged base of a branch produces hormones that help heal wounds.
- Renew anti-desiccant sprays on broad-leaved evergreens.
- Protect your young fruit trees from hungry mice that can chew the bark off at the soil line. Keep mulch several inches from trunks to keep the mice from hiding under it or consider putting wire-screen mouse guards around the trunks of the trees.
- Inspect ornamental trees and shrubs for scale insects while leafless.
- Use wood ashes from the fireplace as a good source of potash. Keep in mind the pH of wood ashes is 11 so only use them on areas where the pH needs to be raised.
- Remove and destroy infested foliage on arborvitae and juniper to control leaf miner. Look for browned foliage that is hollowed out to detect the problem.
- To control bagworm on shrubs and trees, look for the small stick-covered 'bags' and remove by hand.
- Check for tan gypsy moth egg masses on tree trunks and branches. Scrape or brush off egg masses and destroy.
- Check on winter plant protection; add mulch and adjust plant stakes as necessary.
- Inspect hemlocks for woolly adelgid. Plan to apply a dormant horticultural oil treatment in April if the cottony egg masses are found at the base of needles.
- If you are overwintering plants into your garage or cellar, check the soil to see if it needs water. If the soil is frozen, it may be in too cold of a spot.
- Protect broadleaf evergreen shrubs such as mountain laurel and rhododendron with anti-transpirent sprays. Apply during February thaw.
- In February, brighten up your home by forcing spring bulbs and branches of spring-flowering trees such as forsythia, dogwood, and crabapple to bloom indoors. Cut the branches and place them in a bucket or vase of warm water
- Select pest-resistant cultivars or species where possible when planning the year's garden. Choose varieties appropriate to the site.
- Feed the birds regularly and see that they have a supply of clean water. Birds like suet, fruit, nuts, and bread crumbs as well as bird seed.
- Clean bird feeders and baths regularly to avoid the spread of avian diseases. Disinfect feeders and baths monthly with a solution of 1-part bleach to 9-parts water. Clean droppings off and make sure the bird food isn’t moldy.
- Consider getting a heater for the bird bath.
- February is a great time to build a birdhouse. The size of the entrance must be proportionate to the type of bird you want to attract. Provide a rough surface both inside and outside the entrance to facilitate access and egress. In addition, ventilation holes are important. Put up the birdhouse in the spring, placing it at least six feet off the ground to keep cats, raccoons, and other predators away. protective collar hung just below the birdhouse also deters unwelcome visitors.
- FrogWatch USA is looking for volunteers to record the number and varieties of frogs around the country.
Yard Accessories and Miscellanea
- Bring pruning tools inside and clean them for the upcoming season. Disassemble hand pruners, and loppers. Sharpen the blades, oil the levers, and remove any rust.
- Paint the handles of garden tools red or orange. This will preserve the wood and make the tools easier to locate when you lay them down in the garden or on the lawn.
- Move garden ornaments such as urns or jars into the garage or basement to prevent damage during the cold winter season. If containers are too large to move, cover them to prevent water collecting in them or turn them upside down during the winter so water will not collect and freeze in them causing breakage.
- Clean crusty pots by soaking them in vinegar for a few hours. Heavily crusted pots might require additional scrubbing with steel wool. Rinse thoroughly and then to sterilize, dip in a 1:10 bleach to water solution for a few minutes. Rinse and dry.
- Check labels and storage instructions of pesticides, some may need to be protected from freezing temperatures to be effective.
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