Welcome spring with winter garden fix-ups

At this time of year, with the Holidays a fading memory, optimistic gardeners are already beginning to emerge from their winter hibernation and look forward to the spring that is just around the corner.
In many parts of the country, the winter is proving to be milder than expected, but it's definitely not over just yet. However, this is a perfect time to take care of all those little projects that seem to fill us with the realization that spring really is on the way.
Tool time If you didn't get around to prepping the lawn mower for winter, at least you can get it ready for spring! A thorough cleaning out of the accumulated dried-on gunk from the underside is a minimum. A new spark plug is a good idea, and call around to see if any of your local lawn mower service places are offering a pre-season deal on blade sharpening.
Transplant now If you have mature or near-mature trees and shrubs that will need to be moved to a new location, now would be a good time to transplant them. At this time of the year, plants are still dormant and far less likely to experience trauma from being moved.
Fertilizer? Not yet! Avoid the temptation to fertilize newly set out trees and shrubs just yet. Wait until they show the first signs of growth, and then only fertilize very lightly for the first year of growth,
Bag the bagworms If you have any narrow-leaf evergreens such as Junipers, check them for bagworm pouches. The insect eggs spend the winter in those pouches only to emerge in the spring and begin chomping away on the foliage. If you find any bagworm pouches, remove them by hand, place them carefully in a paper bag and burn them.
Pre-emptive strike on weeds In case you hadn't noticed, it's quite possible that weeds are already appearing and might already be going to seed. Take the time now to carefully remove weeds before their seeds can scatter and you will save a lot of backbreaking labor later on. As you pull out each of the little pests, tell yourself you are preventing hundreds or even thousands of weeds from invading your landscape in the months ahead.
Slug 'em Speaking of pests, be on the lookout for slugs as well as weeds. Slugs may be slow-moving, but they are highly prolific and left alone can produce hundreds of little slugettes that quickly produce even more.
Clip and trim January and February are good months to prune back most deciduous trees and shrubs if they've gotten to look a little unruly over the past season. You can now prune flowering, fruit and shade trees. Be sure to use good, sharp shears for a clean cut. However, avoid pruning spring flowering plants such as forsythia as you'll simply be removing their spring flowers.
Armchair gardening Now is the perfect time to select shrubs and trees for spring planting. Research using library books or, more conveniently, sit at your computer and browse online. Use your imagination and get creative!
Get inspired Yes, a little self-promotion here, but I think you'll find it helpful. Drop me an e-mail and I'll be happy to give you a subscription to my free weekly newsletter. It's a good way to keep focused on your garden, and most weeks you'll find Q&A's or tips from other readers. Simply send an e-mail to snipped-for-privacy@landsteward.org and put "newsletter" in the subject line.
A final thought If your old Christmas tree is still lying around somewhere, here's a good use for it. Cut off some of the branches and carefully lay them across any tender or early-flowering plants to protect them from a sudden cold snap. 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.or
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