January Garden Tips

plants with snow on them

With the cold temperatures and everything in the garden being dormant there isn’t anything to do in the garden or is there?  There are a few things to put on your gardening to do list when you find a nice day.
Fill the bird bath and bird feeder.  Birds need water and food during the winter and we can all help.  You may want to consider a heater to keep the water in the bird bath from freezing or purchase one with a built in heater to minimize your commitment or choose a sturdy, weather proof container, such as a heavy duty plastic saucer.  Dump out the ice in the morning and fill it with warm water so it won’t freeze right away.
Be on the lookout for frost heave.  Its winter and the ground is going to freeze.  we have seen the ground freeze and thaw a number of times already.  This can damage plants that were installed later in the year that have not gotten established.  The biggest concern is for smaller plants and plants with shallow roots.  The frost can actually lift the plants out of the ground or expose the roots. Exposed roots are susceptible to drying from the sun and wind.  Cover any exposed roots with mulch until the root ball can be reset in the spring.  We generally stop planting perennials before thanksgiving to avoid this issue.  We are less concerned with larger container and B&B shrubs and trees since the root balls are deep enough that the frost generally won’t get to the bottom and heave the plant.
Spotted lantern fly defense.  While outside on garden patrol look for egg masses of spotted lantern fly.  They are a putty colored mass that can be found on trees, fences, trellises, garden furniture, pots, rocks, or just about anything outdoors.  This pest has become a real problem in the area and although there is no great solution for it right now eliminating the egg masses will go a long way to control it.  You can smash the egg masses or scrape them off into a container of rubbing alcohol or hand sanitizer.  Seal the container and discard it.  Spotted lantern fly’s favorite trees to feed on are Ailanthus, Appl, Plum, Maple, Grape, and Pine.  Since the lantern fly can enter your yard from a neighbors spraying them is not an effective control.  The arborist we work with suggests using a systemic insecticide on vulnerable species so when the insect begins to feed on the plant it will ingest the chemical and die.
Get tools ready for spring.  Clean off any remaining soil, remove rust, and sharpen your pruning and digging tools.  Tools work their best when clean and sharp.  We sharpen all of our shovels, spades, axes, mattocks, and pruners on a regular basis.  Having a sharp tool makes digging easier and yield cleaner pruning cuts allowing the plant to heal quickly. Putting a light coating of oil on them will keep them from rusting over the winter months.  If you are using the tools around edible crops you will likely want to consider using food safe materials such as coconut oil or butchers block conditioner.
Get an early start on spring plants.  Although its too early to plant some seeds now is  a perfect time to plant perennials and woody plants if you prefer to save money.  There are many plants that need to cold to break down a tough seed coat.  Sow your seeds in pots and place them in a shed or outdoors in a spot protected from mice.  If you need a cover you can use an old fish tank of plastic box with a screen on top to protect them.  If you have them inside or a spot that isn’t exposed to rain or snow water them periodically to keep the soil moist not saturated and make sure the containers you plant them in will drain.