Wednesday, January 19, 2011

10 gardening chores to do in January

That's right, it is the middle of January - wet, cold and even snowy at times - but I've come up with a list of at least 10 things you can do now if you have a severe case of cabin fever. Of course, for the outdoor activities you might have to wait for a decent day but one will come. That is one of the nicer things about gardening in Alabama - no matter how nasty the weather gets, there will be a more pleasant day just around the corner. You can bet on that!

1) Planning & Ordering - I received my first seed catalog the day after Christmas and they have been arriving steadily since. I love these catalogs - what gardener doesn't? - and they really get you excited about spring. Now is the perfect time to plan a garden. If you haven't discovered the joys of mail-order, I urge you to order something. I find it thrilling to get a live plant in the mail (but then again, I'm a very odd person, but I have heard other people say it so I know I'm not alone!) Some of my favorite mail-order companies are ForestFarm, Chamblee's Roses, Song Sparrow Nursery and Lazy S Farm Nursery. You simply can't find the wide selections in a local nursery that you do from these places. The only drawback these days is the exorbitant shipping prices. I admit they have curtailed my mail-order spending habits quite a bit but I try to treat myself to as least one plant from some of my favorite nurseries.

2) Planting - Do you have daffodils that you forgot to plant in December? If so, plant them as soon as possible. I'm always planting daffodils in January. As long as the bulbs are still firm, they are good and they will come up in the spring - they may not bloom like they would if planted earlier, but they will there for next year.

This is also an excellent time to plant trees and shrubs. The ground can be very wet in January but if you can find a dry time to do it, get them in the ground. The roots will begin to grow during the remainder of the winter and they will get a head start on the stressful heat and drought of summer.

3) Clean up planting beds and reapply mulch. This is what I did a few weeks ago. I was driving through a sub-division and saw a tremendous mountain of pine needles right there on the street. I have a confession to make - pine needles get me very excited. I was back in a flash with my rake to get them before the street department did. Seriously, who would throw away pine needles??? The mind reels.

If weather permits, beds can also be prepared for plants, including vegetables. Cover crops, planted in the fall, can be turned under.

4) Clean and sharpen tools. Okay, I'm not good at doing this. But this is a good time to do it!

5) Caring for our feathered friends. Winter is a stressful time for wildlife and this includes birds. Providing well-stocked bird feeders is a must and even more important is providing water. I bought a heating element to go in our bird bath so the birds can be assured a water source even in freezing weather. This is also a good time to clean bird feeders.

6) Apply dormant oils. If you have bugs or diseases in your garden and you want to get a head start, consider applying dormant oil (also known as horticultural oil) especially to roses, broadleaf evergreens and fruit trees. The oils are effective and ecologically friendly. They work by smothering the insects that are hiding out for the winter. Do not apply when temperatures are below freezing and apply when temperatures will be above freezing for at least 24 hours.

7) Take dormant cuttings of shrubs and roses. Cuttings can be taken, rooted and placed in a sheltered location, away for winds and sun. They should root by early spring.

8) Prune fruit trees. A subject I know little about but there are several neglected apple trees on my mother's property that needs attention. I'm doing my research and I'll keep you posted.

9) Start seeds indoors. If you have a large basement or a similar place, you can set up lights and start your vegetable and flower seeds indoors and have them ready in time to plant in the spring.

10) Start a gardening journal or better yet, a blog! - I can't stress the importance of record keeping. A journal can be very rewarding and full of useful information to you in the future. And if you'd rather do it online and publicly, start a blog. Take photos of everything. In years to come, you will look at your older photos and be amazed at how things have changed!

11 Okay, I lied, 11 chores to do. I just thought of one more chore that I do more than anything else in January - transplanting. This is a good time to move plants, especially roses. Check out my link for details.

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

18 comments:

  1. I have to still order my seeds! I can't wait.

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  2. Some great info here. Have never had much luck rooting roses. Have you?

    So much to do. So little time.....

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  3. Phillip, I envy you being able to plant anything this time of year. The earth is frozen here a good foot down I would guess. Pruning is however an excellent job for this time of year in my garden. If that is . . . I can take the cold! Good Luck with your mom's apples! It is really easy . . . mostly take off all the vertical lines. Leaving a healthy node. There is more to it than that of course . . . looking forward to your update. Sharpening tools . . . I could sure learn how to do that better.

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  4. ...and I thought I was going to be able to take today off....

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  5. NC is like that too -- we always have nice days to get outside in winter. We've reminded me that I must get on with my seed orders.

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  6. Everything is too frozed to do much outside. Plus we got another 4inches of snow today and it is still falling. SIGH~~ I could get into sharpening my tools IF I knew how. That is one thing I have never learned. My poor tools pretty much take care of themselves. I do have my garden journal revved-up for the season. My 10-year garden journal reads more like a social calendar right now. At least there is something in it.

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  7. I have had great luck rooting roses RR. We should talk! Thanks Phillip for the suggestions. I need to get some of that dormant oil!

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  8. I feel like I'm way behind in my gardening already, and the year just got started! I have specific needs to get going with # 2,3,6,8,and 11. Add #12: Attack the weeds. They are up and growing. They love all the rain we have had, and the freezing temps hardly give them a pause. Isn't gardening fun?

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  9. Philip, I know you have beautiful hydrangeas, and I have a hydrangea question. Last year one of my hydrangeas got a bad casse of mites. It looked terrible. I would like to avoid getting them again this year. Should I apply dormant oil this weekend?

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  10. Lisa, you can do that but you want to make sure temperatures are above freezing at least 24 hrs. after you spray. In the spring, when leaves start to grow, try spraying the undersides of the leaves with an insecticidal soap. The spray from a hose will also help wash them away.

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  11. Thanks Phillip, this is a great 'to do' list. Instead of writing my own I will just link to you!
    Now to get out there...the fire is so inviting.

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  12. Yay...you're so right, there are a lot of things we can do to keep ourselves from going crazy!

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  13. Great list! Somewhat similar to my own with the exception of planting trees, etc. Here in Alberta the ground is frozen solid and under several feet of snow! Enjoy your weekend!

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  14. Phillip I found this heirloom seed & plant nursery on Facebook today BBB Seeds, blog at: http://bbbseed.wordpress.com

    I gathered up my newspapers yesterday to continue mulching my daylilies, but decided I needed to use the cold spell to clean & straighten up my messy house. It gets neglected during gardening weather. I still have a lot of potted daylilies that need to be planted, but I have over crowded iris that need to be moved from their future locations. Mary

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  15. I went into the greenhouse to get my gauge to measure my rainfall. I have a tomato plant an inch high after all the cold and snow we've had. It's one that didn't come up last spring. The greenhouse is leaky and not heated. One of the water leaks was over the tray. It's going to be a great gardening year. Mary

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  16. All of these are good. I've been thinking of my plan for the next couple of months. Great post.

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  17. lol - i'm not even sure if i want to think about what needs to be moved around this spring....i think i'll wait till the beginning of March here in Washington State. Usually no more freezes after that??? I dug up a couple roses last year to move & they fell apart...looked like there were roots on all of them so i just stuck them in the ground - we'll see what comes back this year...xoox

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  18. A hot-water bath! The birds in your garden really are a pampered lot! :)
    January is active gardening time for us here in Mumbai. This is about the only time when we can grow chrysanthemums and gladioli, cabbages and carrots ... all the plants that you in cooler climates call 'summer plants' :)

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