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.
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
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.
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
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!
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 email@example.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.org and for resources and
additional information, or to subscribe to Steve's free e-mailed
newsletter, visit www.landsteward.or