What are some of your favorite holiday activities? Could it be singing Christmas songs such as “O Holy Night,” “Little Snowflake,”The First Noel” or “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer?”
If you’re not in the singing mood then other traditional activities may include decorating the house and Christmas tree, baking cookies, swapping holiday recipes or roasting chestnuts or marshmallows over an open fire. When snow falls, laughter is guaranteed with activities such as sledding, ice skating, snowball fights and of course, building a snowman.
Since snow is on my mind, writing about winter gardening tips seems appropriate for this time of year. Below are some tips to consider as winter progresses.
After the holidays, plant your live Christmas tree as soon as possible. Do not leave the rootball exposed to freezing temperatures after removing the tree from the house.
Instead of now, think about planting trees in the fall that are less likely to break from heavy snowfall such as red and white oak, red maple, flowering dogwood and redbud.
If you did not get all of your spring bulbs planted before the ground freezes, try and do so now. If your bulbs are healthy and have been properly stored in a cool place, they still have a chance of blooming if you get them planted by February.
As February and March approach, think about planting fruit trees, grape vines and brambles while pruning existing grapevines and blueberries when the buds begin to swell. Do not prune fruit trees until March, especially peaches.
Evergreen shrubs may be pruned now too. Cut back ornamental grasses, as well as liriope and mondo grass, before spring growth begins.
Yellow or dropping leaves on houseplants may be caused by too much or too little water, limited sun or cold temperatures. Plants will recover if the problem is corrected.
Inspect houseplants for insect infestations such as spider mites, scales and whiteflies.
Check your supply of seeds before planning your seed orders. Seeds more than a couple of years old should probably be replaced.
Start your garden plan on paper as you browse the garden catalogs. This will help prevent ordering more than you have room to plant.
If the soil dries out enough to work, go ahead and prepare a spot for the late February planting of peas and kale.
If you are maintaining winter vegetables in a greenhouse or under plastic tunnels, remember that venting on sunny days will be important to prevent over-heating.
Use wood ashes in the garden areas sparingly. Ashes are alkaline and will raise the pH of the soil, so treat them like lime and do not apply around acid-loving plants. Remember to soil test. If the report calls for 40 lbs. of lime per 1,000 square ft., the equivalent amount of ashes is about 80 lbs. per 1,000 square ft.
Check your yard, garage or tool shed for garden products and equipment that should be stored indoors for the winter. Liquids should not be allowed to freeze. Pesticides should be stored locked, out of the reach of children and in their original containers. Plastic sprayers and rubber and vinyl hoses should be stored empty, preferably indoors.
Winterize your lawnmower and clean garden tools with a wire brush and apply a light coat of oil to protect them from rusting. Sharpen edges of hoes and spades. Clean, readjust and sharpen the blades of pruning tools. Lightly sand handles and then apply a coat of linseed oil.
For more winter gardening tips, contact me at 586-4009, 488-3848 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Christy Bredenkamp is horticulture extension agent for Jackson and Swain counties.