Don?t forget the garden this Holiday season

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: www.landsteward.org/page.cfm/5220
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 tree.
Christmas trees
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 can browse:-
Titled ?Winter gardening: design tips that work,? this is a useful article published by the Brooklyn Botanic Garden: http://www.bbg.org/gar2/topics/design/1998wi_winter.html
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: http://www.ipm.iastate.edu/ipm/hortnews/1996/4-5-1996/hiver.html
For a list of books on winter gardening, prepared by the science reference service of the Library of Congress, go to: http://www.loc.gov/rr/scitech/SciRefGuides/wintergardening.html
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 search window: http://landscaping.about.com
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: http://www.csrees.usda.gov/Extension
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 snipped-for-privacy@landsteward.org and for resources and additional information, or to subscribe to Steve?s free e-mailed newsletter, visit www.landsteward.org
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On Wed, 17 Dec 2008 10:11:53 -0800 (PST), " snipped-for-privacy@Greenwoodnursery.com"
[...]

[...]
Thank YOU for the heads-up! I am guilty of all of the above. Will take care of tools ASAP.
Just before I returned from a 3-week trip we had two huge storms! Great for the garden*, and great for parched So. Calif in general.
(Too bad the area does not yet have infrastructure in place to capture the damn rain instead of letting just run out to sea!!! My buckets on front porch are overflowing; wish I'd thought to set out trash cans instead.)
Reason I mention the storms: Hedge trimmers and big clippers accidentally left out; blades rusted. I've been immersing rusted pruners, etc. in vinegar and then cleaning off and oiling.
*** Anybody have better suggestion?
* Everything looks in good shape. Snow peas climbing up trellis. First batch of radishes about used up; time to replant. Baby spinach for dinner last night...yum. Bok choy needs thinning. Beets doing OK, but need thinning. (I am always chicken about thinning, though I know it's counterproductive to be anthropopathic about plants.) Couple of big tomatoes slowly ripening. Some weird cherry tomatoes still hanging on; never get red. Brussels sprouts doing OK, but full of holes. Strewed some snailbait; hope it works. Same for mesclum, which is leaping out of the ground; will soon need to be pulled & replaced. Carrots going gangbusters; same with green onions.
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snipped-for-privacy@NoSpam.com;825679 Wrote: > On Wed, 17 Dec 2008 10:11:53 -0800 (PST), " snipped-for-privacy@Greenwoodnursery.com"

Hi,
thank you for the great tips and "reminders". I have to admit that I am also quilty of most of the above... Even though I cannot consider myself being a big gardener (my wife does most of the planning, working and commanding...) I still enjoy the beauty of a well maintained garden.
Some of the things mentioned have actually been carried out by a gardener we found over the internet (not all of it, but we can take care of the rest, I guess...). Let me share our experience with you, as it really paid off:
As mentioned we needed someone to some gardening work and found a website called www.egenie.co.uk where you can post your job and professionals send you estimates. Worked out just finde, the next weekend the guy showed up and did all (and a little more than) we asked him. The garden looks great right now and we will call the same guy again in spring.
But now I guess I have to take care of those dirty tools, and yes, the WD40 is sitting on the shelf!
--
BeyerT


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When I pulled out my nice pruners out for trimming the Christmas tree, I saw a little rust on the blades. They looked clean just three months ago.
Enjoy Life ... Dan
--
Garden in Zone 5 South East Michigan.

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<snip>

I found a shovel in the garden, stuck into the mud where I had been digging for potatoes a month ago. Everything here is mud, mud, mud. Portland is buried under a foot or so of snow, and all we got was rain.
Maybe I'll bring the tools in, clean them, sharpen, oil, and paint the handles...change oil in mower and tiller.... My tomatoe trellises are still outside because it hasn't stopped raining long enough for me to bring them in. Is just one day without rain too much to ask for?
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