To Do in January

Happy New Year, y’all!!  Let’s garden! Well, let’s plan to garden. From the looks of the recent weather forecasts (past, present and future), it would appear to be a great year to plant cattails, rice and water lilies. Claude Monet would be pleased. Maybe this is the year to seriously consider a rain garden. There are usually two or three local hands-on workshops on this very topic. In the meantime, here’s what to do until we can get back to playing in the dirt.

Lawn Care
Continue trying to keep the leaves from accumulating on the turf.

Think about how you could change your landscape to eliminate some (or all) of your grass. It is after all the most expensive planting in the yard and the most ecologically unsustainable. Just sayin’.

Not much here either unless you need a place to dump wood ashes. You can spread them on the veggie garden, bulb beds, or non-acid loving shrub beds if the pH is low, <6.0.

See introductory paragraph. Should the soil dry out enough to actually be workable, asparagus crowns can be planted now.

Sharpen those hand pruners and loppers and go to work! Here’s your get-out-of-the-house excuse.  Studies have shown that January pruning cuts heal more rapidly than those made in other months. So, take down those branches overhanging the house and the ones that shade that corner of the garden.  Cut back those misshapen or overgrown shrubs.

Please prune the branches individually to shape the plant. Unless you are trying to recreate Buckingham or Versailles Palaces, leave the power hedge clippers where they are. Shearing is not the best thing you can do for a plant. However, if you must shear, be sure the finished product is wider at the base than at the top. This allows sunlight to reach the lower leaves and will keep the plant looking full from top to bottom.

When pruning entire branches of anything make the cut at the outside of the branch collar (flared area at the branch origin).

Spray only if the plants you brought indoors for the winter brought unwanted guests with them. Light horticultural oils or insecticidal soap should be safe and effective treatments. If you can run them outside on a warmish dryish day so much the better. READ THE LABEL!

How to stay warm and dry ‘til March without incurring cabin fever induced insanity.
The warm part usually isn’t too difficult. Wear warm clothes while you prune and plan. Or when it is just too gross to go outside delve into those seed catalogs (some more), break out the Kindle (or a real book) and I recommend a hot beverage of your choosing.

The dry part might present a major challenge this winter. Many of us are no longer spry enough to actually dodge the raindrops. For those of us who are fashion-challenged anyway, a full rain suit (preferably in bright yellow) and tall rubber boots will offer shelter from even the worst deluge. For another option see last sentence previous paragraph.

Cheer up! The days are already getting longer and March is just two months away!

— Gary Crispell