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Winter Gardening

DECEMBER:

  1. Rake the last of the fall leaves from your lawn. If you leave a pile of wet, matted leaves now you'll have big dead spots next spring.
  2. Fertilize pansies, snapdragons and ornamental kale and cabbage with a fertilizer that contains "nitrate nitrogen", which helps your plants grow and bloom in cold soil.
  3. Bermuda sod can be planted if it is available but be sure to water it regularly for the rest of winter to keep it from drying out.
  4. Keep holiday plants in the coolest indoor spot possible. Otherwise the flowers and leaves will drop prematurely.  Also, poke holes in the foil wrapping on pots of holiday plants and set them in individual saucers. Otherwise accumulated water will cause root rot.
  5. Sprinkle pine straw over bulb foliage that has emerged too soon. The green leaves won't be hurt by the cold but the straw will help hide them.
  6. Prune your evergreen shrubbery and bring the cuttings indoors. Juniper, holly and magnolia foliage is quite decorative. Use holly and nandina berries for a red accent in table centerpieces.
  7. Poinsettias do not need fertilizing now but they do need watering. Check the dryness of the soil daily to keep them looking their brilliant best.
  8. Prune short stubs and dead limbs from trees now that all the leaves are gone.
  9. Ficus plants that lose leaves are reacting to insufficient light or a drafty site. Can you move yours to a better place in your house?
  10. Bird feeders bring lots of colorful activity to a yard in cold weather. Most bird experts recommend black oil sunflower seed for general feeding. Thistle seed and suet cakes attract birds you might not have seen before.
  11. Purchase pots of paperwhite narcissus, African violet or gloxinia for your office and home to bring color and a touch of perfume to the air.
  12. Plant woody vines like Carolina jessamine, wisteria and cross vine now. Make sure to place them next to a sturdy arbor and loosely tie the young vine to it with twine.
  13. Houseplants don't need many nutrients in the winter. Use houseplant fertilizer at half strength. Don't water them unless the soil feels dry one inch deep.
  14. Pull mulch at least six inches away from tree trunks. Some professional landscapers pile it high and don't pull it back - setting a bad example for all of us.
  15. Remove the faded blooms and bloom stalks from amaryllis but allow the leaves to remain. Water only when the soil feels dry.
  16. Fireplace ashes can be scattered over your lawn. They will provide a bit of phosphorus and potassium plus counteract acidity. Spread no more than ten lb. per 1000 square feet per month.

JANUARY:

  1. Water poinsettias only as needed - when the top inch of the soil becomes dry to the touch. Keep them in bright light but cool temperatures. Do not fertilize until March.
  2. It is easy to see the limb structure of trees now. Tie ribbon around the ones you think should be removed then step back for another look before cutting them off.
  3.  On a sunny day fertilize pansies and ornamental cabbage with a product that contains "nitrate nitrogen". This nutrient is best for plants growing in cold soil.  Water pansies and ornamental kale after a hard freeze so they can re-hydrate their wilted leaves.
  4. Small, leafless shrubs and trees can be transplanted easily now. Wait for a warm day when the ground is not frozen.
  5. Chop unwanted kudzu, English ivy and bamboo to the ground. Follow with weedkiller on the leaves in April.
  6. If the ground is dry, but cold, rototill the soil in your vegetable garden. You'll eliminate lots of insects, weeds and nematodes.
  7. Remember to regularly water window boxes and other outside plant containers.
  8. Check indoor plants for insects like spider mites, scale, and mealybugs. Remember to spray insecticidal soap or indoor houseplant insecticide on the undersides of leaves to get good pest control.
  9.  Amaryllis flower stems and their faded blooms can be removed now. Treat it like a houseplant for the rest of the winter then plant outdoors in a sunny bed in May.
  10. Plant pansies and English daisies in a sunny bed when the weather is mild. Use plants in three inch or larger pots to make an immediate impact in your landscape.
  11. Check on the tender bulbs (canna, caladium, dahlia) you stored indoors for the winter. If they are beginning to shrink, mist each one with warm water.

FEBRUARY:

  1. Prune apple and pear trees now - but postpone peach pruning until mid-March
  2. Redesign your lawn for easier mowing. Eliminate sharp angles and narrow turf areas. Use mulch, new flower beds or a groundcover like mondo grass there instead.
  3. Water poinsettia, Christmas cactus and amaryllis plants with houseplant fertilizer diluted to one-half strength.
  4. How much fertilizer or lime does your lawn or garden really need? The only way to know for sure is to call your county Extension office and get a soil test kit.
  5. Bring branches of spirea, forsythia and flowering quince indoors. Placed in a vase, they will bloom in just a few days.
  6. The brown foliage on pampas grass and maiden grass can be pruned away now. Leave only a "crew cut" of brown stems twelve inches high.
  7. Plant sweet pea now for fragrant flowers later. Plant English peas, onions, asparagus or elephant garlic for your spring vegetable garden.
  8. Overgrown Burford holly shrubs can be pruned severely now. Even if it is reduced to twelve inches tall, this shrub will resprout plenty of new foliage by summer.
  9. Clean out bird boxes so they will be ready to welcome new residents in a few weeks.
  10. Build raised beds for vegetables, roses and herbs. It's easy to do with four pieces of 2x8 wood planks. Choose lengths that fit your space; bolt them together at the corners.
  11. Reduce the size of your butterfly bush by two thirds to one half to encourage new growth (and big blooms) this summer.
  12. Time for the first fertilization of fescue for the year. Any brand of turf fertilizer will work well. Next application: April.
  13. Set your mower to its highest setting and cut off the tattered leaves of liriope (monkey grass). They will quickly regrow in March.

MARCH:

  1. Fertilize pansies. Since the soil is warming, use any water soluble houseplant fertilizer, one half pint to one pint of solution per plant.
  2. Start seed of tomatoes and annual flowers indoors. You'll need six weeks to grow strong transplants.
  3. Prune boxwood - but not with shears. Use a hand pruner to make foliage "holes" in the greenery so light can penetrate to the trunk.
  4. Spray a fungicide (Captan, etc.) on apple and peach trees while the blooms are on the tree.
  5. If you haven't spread lime on your lawn in a year, it's time once again. Use 40 pounds per 1000 square feet.
  6. Now is the time to prune giant holly shrubs back to a manageable size. Don't be shy - you can cut them to eighteen inches tall and they will come back.
  7. Plant bare-root roses in soil that contains plenty of organic matter and which has been thoroughly tilled.
  8. Use atrazine (Purge) to kill weeds in centipede grass lawns.
  9. Plant beets, cauliflower, mustard, radish and turnips in your garden.
  10. Planting fescue now? You can't use a pre-emergent weed preventer for six weeks after seeding.
  11. Divide overgrown clumps of hosta now that you can see the leaves unfurling aboveground.
  12. Fertilize pecan trees with one pound of 10-10-10 for every inch of trunk thickness.
  13. Examine the backside of euonymous and camellia leaves for scale insects. Thoroughly spray with horticultural oil if the pests are found.
  14. Remove spent camellia blooms from the bush and from the ground. You'll prevent camellia petal blight.
  15. Last chance to prune bush roses to approximately one half their present size.
  16. Forsythia, quince and winter honeysuckle can be pruned to a smaller size after flowering.
  17. Fertilize shrubs: 1 tablespoon of 10-10-10 (or shrub fertilizer) per foot of height.
  18. Sharpen your mower blade or replace it with a new one.

From the Georgia Gardener, www.walterreeves.com

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