The hustle and bustle of the winter holidays are behind us, and though there may not seem to be much happening in your garden or landscape, here are some things you can do inside and outside to stay ahead of your spring chore list and plan for a successful garden season.
Week 1
• When the flowers on Christmas Cactus fade, pinch off the blooms and begin a five-week dormant cycle. Do not touch the plant for five full weeks, meaning no water and no fertilizer. At the second week of February begin bi-weekly feedings of Jack’s Classic 20-20-20, and a second round of flowers will come after mid-March.
• Snow shoveled and blown around the yard can be relocated to perennial beds. A blanket of snow acts as frozen mulch, protecting plants from harsh conditions.
Week 2
• Study your current garden layout by referring to diagrams or your own memory. You may want to make changes this year to increase efficiency and productivity. For example, mowing and maintenance may be easier if plants are grouped differently. Do research and weigh all of your options so this season can be your most successful yet!
• Continue to monitor the health of your houseplants. Prevent dust from accumulating on plant leaves by washing them periodically. The days are short now; resituate plants if they are not receiving enough sunlight. On very cold nights, move containers away from windows.
Week 3
• Use calcium chloride or granular urea (46-0-0) instead of salt crystals when attempting to melt snow or ice. Both of these products will work faster and more efficiently than salt, without harming your lawn or plants.
• Try not to walk on frozen grass over the winter as you will destroy the living cells in the blades of grass where ever you step. Two or more inches of snow and you can walk on the grass, 3 or more inches and sledding is OK.
Week 4
• Spring may still be a couple months away, but slow-growing plants can be started now. Save time later by planting parsley, thyme, tarragon, bedding geraniums, and sage indoors. Chives, onions and leeks are hearty enough to live outside before the last winter frost. Since they will be ready to go relatively soon, start their seeds as well. Toward the end of January, there are some seeds you should be starting indoors. Broccoli, cabbage and cold crops can be started inside.
• Mulch perennial beds or plants with 3 to 4 inches of mulch to keep plants frozen in place and to prevent them from being heaved out of the soil. Check perennials for plants that may have popped out of the ground due to frost heaving. If this happens, rebury them and cover the mound with more mulch. Strong winds and precipitation can cause mulch to shift, so make sure it is in the right spot and reapply, as necessary.
• Indoor insect pests occur because the indoor conditions are too dry for most tropical plants. Humidifying your home (30 percent or more) will help prevent these pests from returning. Another tactic would be to get trays of pebbles and adding water and setting the plants on the pebbles to create a natural humidity.
• Assess any chaos caused by winter weather throughout your yard. For instance, branches harmed by the elements should be carefully removed. Allowing broken limbs to stay intact encourages bark tearing.
• Always remove heavy snow from evergreens and shrubs, always brushing upward with a kitchen broom. It the plants are coated with ice, do not touch and allow it to melt as attempting to brush it may break the stems or the plant.
(Editor’s Note: Ken Morgan is the owner of Robin’s Nest Floral and Garden Center in Easton, Md.)