January: To Do in the Garden

By Gary Crispell, EMGV

Well, THAT year is gone. It’s hard to decide whether to be happy, sad or both. It seems premature to be relieved. Perhaps we can be hopeful that the light we see at the end of the tunnel is a good thing and not an Amtrack express train. We can be hopeful that the vaccines will be successful against Covid-19 and its mutant offspring and that enough of the world population will get vaccinated to at least cage the beast. Perhaps we will be able to salvage at least part of the summer and plus the Fall/Winter holidays. Let us be optimistic. Let us GAR—DEN! (A word about the weather; When NOAA predicted a wetter than normal December, I did not anticipate the potential for rice paddies in the backyard. I shall re- access the backyard plan.)

Keep the accumulations of leaves off the turf. They should be through falling by now making that job easier.

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 (unless you have an extensive planting of tea roses) 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 over hanging 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 Palace or Versailles or the Imperial Palace in Tokyo leave the power hedge clippers where they are. Shearing is not the best thing you can do for a plant. However, if you must…be sure the finished product is wider at the base than the top. This allows sunlight to reach the lower leaves and 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).

Did you bring in some friends when you brought in your houseplants for the winter? Yeah, me, too. Try to catch a warm day and run the plants outside for a quick dose of a light horticultural oil or insecticidal soap. Be sure to READ THE LABEL!

Wear lots of clothes when you go outside, ‘cause I know you are going to go outside. You’re a gardener.

Seed catalogues are highly entertaining and in abundant supply. Enjoy!

Put up a squirrel resistant (squirrel proof is an oxymoron) bird feeder.

Google (or Bing or whomever) North Carolina native plants and determine if there might be something new and interesting you could add to your landscape. (or just check out the NC Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox)

Make homemade soup with the bounty from your garden and drink warm beverages.

Stay warm. It’s only two months until March.

*Resources & Further Reading

Organic Lawn Care Guide

Central North Carolina Planting Calendar for Annual Fruits, Vegetables, and Herbs

General Pruning Tips

NC Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox