The Holidays are here again, and with short days and so much to do,
it?s not easy to focus on what needs to be done in and around your
landscape. That?s particularly true when there?s a cozy fireplace
indoors and it?s cold and windy outdoors!
However, we shouldn?t totally ignore our garden because some things
really can?t wait until spring. Once again, here are a few of my ?What
To Do Before Santa Gets Here? tips. Or, if you must, after he?s flown
back to the North Pole.
Take care of your tools
If you?re like most people, your tools are leaning against the wall in
the garage or shed, just where you left them the last time you were
working in the garden. And they probably still have chunks of dried
dirt and dead grass stuck to them. A few minutes invested now will pay
dividends next spring.
Start by cleaning mud and dirt off shovels, forks and trowels. That?s
a minimum, but it?s also a good idea to rub the metal parts with an
oily rag. If you have a can of WD-40 on the shelf, that'll work fine.
If you have any linseed oil, rub it on to the wooden handles to
prevent them drying and cracking.
Remember the mower
Trying to start a lawn mower for the first time in the spring can be a
hassle, particularly if it hasn?t been touched since the fall. If you
haven?t done so already, now?s the time to start up your mower and let
it run until the gas tank is empty.
Clean off the mower blades to remove the clumps of compacted grass,
and if they need sharpening, this could be a good time to call up a
mower service shop and see if they have any winter specials. For a
more comprehensive look at winter tool care, see a previous Plant Man
column archived at my web site. You can find it here:
Snow covered limbs
Tree limbs, that is, not yours. Remember that trees and shrubs can be
damaged by the weight of heavy, wet snow. To prevent or minimize
damage, gently shake the branches of delicate trees and shrubs so the
heavy snow falls away. You can also use a broom to brush snow from the
branches. But be gentle as you don?t want to cause trauma to your
If you?ve selected a real tree this season, remember the magic word:
Water! A ?living? tree needs a thorough watering before you bring it
into the house, and it shouldn't stay indoors much longer than ten
days if you want it to survive outdoors after the Holidays.
A ?cut? tree needs water, too. Saw a couple of inches off the cut end
and check the water level once or twice a day. You might be surprised
to know that a cut tree can absorb as much as a gallon of water a day.
As always, the Internet is a superb resource for both professional
landscapers and home gardeners. Here are few winter-related sites you
Titled ?Winter gardening: design tips that work,? this is a useful
article published by the Brooklyn Botanic Garden:
For a comprehensive list of plants that look good all year but add
special interest during winter months, check out this article
published online by Iowa State University:
For a list of books on winter gardening, prepared by the science
reference service of the Library of Congress, go to:
David Beaulieu, the ?guide? at landscaping.about.com is always a good
resource and his Web site is loaded with helpful articles. Go to the
site, below, and simply type in ?winter? (or any other topic) in the
Expert (and free) help can usually be found at your nearest
Agricultural Extension Service. For your nearest location, go to this
USDA site and click on your state on the map:
And as always, I?m happy to help with your garden and landscape
questions, many of which are featured in the column.
The Plant Man is here to help. Send your questions about trees, shrubs
and landscaping to firstname.lastname@example.org and for resources and
additional information, or to subscribe to Steve?s free e-mailed
newsletter, visit www.landsteward.org