January Celebrate National Mail-order Gardening Month by browsing through this years new nursery and seed catalogs. Visit the Mail-order Gardening Association at www.mailordergardening.com/.
Remember to check the hardiness zone included in the plant description before ordering.
Time to Wintersow; for tips go to http://davesgarden.com/forums/t/553746/ or www.wintersown.org.
After each heavy snow, use a broom to brush snow off the ice covering the water garden.
To reduce your use of de-icing salts, before using sidewalk or driveway remove snow .
If the weather is warm and there's no snow cover, check shallow-rooted perennials such as chrysanthemums and strawberry plants. If you find any roots exposed, use your foot to gently place the plants back in place, and then tuck a little extra mulch around the plants.
For a fun winter harvest indoors sow seeds of curly cress in a pot. Keep the pot in bright light, and water as needed to keep the soil moist. In about 10 days harvest fresh cress to add to sandwiches or salads.
Take houseplants to the kitchen sink to hose off the leaves. Flush excess salts from the soil by allowing the water to run freely through the pots for several minutes.
Check garden tools for any needed repairs.
Start a garden journal with new ideas you'd like to try.
Prune grapevines, leaving a central trunk with four "arms" or branches, plus four short renewal shoots for next year's crop.
Mail-order plants and seeds
Purchase any seed starting supplies you need
Organize picture files
Make garden labels
Make a list of changes/additions you would like to make in your garden (i.e.: plants you want to purchase, beds to make, etc.)
Draw a plan for your vegetable garden
In Zones 4 through 6, start seeds for cool-season crops indoors for early-spring transplanting. In colder zones, postpone planting these vegetables until next month. Cool-season crops include: broccoli, cabbage, and head lettuce.
In Zones 2 through 4, give slow-growing, cold-hardy flower seeds such as pansy, stock, and viola an early start indoors.
If you over-wintered tender plants (begonia, coleus, geranium, Persian shield, etc.) take cuttings now to root for spring transplanting.
In Zones 4 through 6, watch for the first blooms of vernal witch hazels and the fuzzy catkins of pussy willows.
Check stored cannas rhizomes and dahlia tuberous roots. Throw out any that are shriveled or rotted.
Keep shrubs vigorous by following the one-third rule for pruning: Remove a third of the oldest stems at ground level this winter and plan to do the same every year.
For inspiration, walk through a botanic garden or arboretum on a mild winter day. Spend cold days inside leafing through magazines and books to find pictures of garden scenes that appeal to you.
To create an indispensable reference guide to your garden, staple seed packets to index cards and organize them in a recipe box. Staple only one edge of a packet, so you can flip it over to see instructions for growing. On the lined side, note when the seeds were sown, when they sprouted, and any other dates you might need for future seasons.
Continue Wintersowing, if youre not already finished
Prune shrubs and trees, saving small limbs to use later for propping up floppy garden plants.
Cut the tops of ornamental grasses back to the ground in Zones 5 and 6. (In Zones 2 through 4, postpone the job until early April.) To skip tedious raking, tie the tops of each plant together with twine before you cut, then remove the bundled grasses.
Prepare trellises and other garden structures for spring by repairing any damage. In Zones 5 and 6 (and elsewhere if the frost is out of the ground), reset wobbly bricks or stones in paths.
When the snow melts from the lawn, rake any dead spots damaged by snow mold. Flush with water any garden spots near sidewalks, driveways, or streets to help wash away de-icing salts.
If you plan to use straw for mulch, buy straw bales now. Leave them outside so any seeds will sprout and die before you spread the straw in your garden.
If your evergreens are discolored, don't panic yet . Wait until May to see if new growth covers damaged needles.
As the soil begins to thaw in Zones 2 through 4, check perennials to see if frost has heaved them out of the ground. If you find any plants with their roots or crowns exposed, push them gently back into place with your foot.
Top off mulch with a fresh layer to stop over-wintering fungus diseases from spreading to new growth.
In Zones 4 through 6, prune fall-bearing 'Heritage' raspberries back to the ground. (For summer-bearing varieties, remove only the old discolored canes now.)
Prune bigleaf hydrangeas such as 'Nikko Blue,' hardy in Zone 6 and in protected areas of Zone 5, by removing a few of the oldest stems at ground level. In Zones 4 through 6, prune 'PeeGee,' 'Annabelle,' and other panicle and smooth hydrangeas back by half.
Have a plant sale with all your multiples and excess from Wintersowing.
Fill outdoor containers with fresh potting soil, then plant cold-tolerant pansies and violas.
Be patient waiting for signs of life from any perennial notoriously slow to sprout, such as butterfly milkweed and hardy hibiscus (both winter-hardy in Zones 4 through 6).
In Zones 2 and 3, order some of the colorful plants that can survive bitter-cold winters. Consider for spring planting: bergenia, bunchberry, columbine, lady's mantle, leopardsbane, maidenhair fern, paxistima, potentilla, rugosa rose, and snow-in-summer.
Remove winter wrap from tree trunks. Also loosen any ties on tree stakes, and remove stakes as soon as possible.
In Zones 4 through 6, dig and divide chrysanthemums early this month. Delay this chore in Zones 2 and 3 until nighttime temperatures remain above 20 degrees. When you separate vigorous young mum shoots, discard the old, woody centers.
Feed roses with slow-release or organic fertilizer.
In Zones 4 and 5, postpone pruning butterfly bush until you see new sprouts at the base, then cut the shrub back to near the ground. In Zone 6, where branches often survive the winter, cut butterfly bush back to the ground, anyway, for a better-looking shrub.
Early this month in Zones 5 and 6, plant a tomato outside with a Wall-o-Water or other form of frost protection. Wait until mid-month in Zone 4, and the end of the month in Zone 2 or 3.
Speed sprouting of parsley and beet seeds by soaking them overnight before planting.
Remove bagworms from arborvitae or other evergreens this spring before the eggs in the bags hatch.
May If you live far north where your growing season is short, look for vegetable varieties that mature early. For a dependable tomato harvest in Zones 2 and 3, try 'Early Girl.' In place of a pepper that produces big, blocky fruits, substitute 'Jingle Bells' or 'Gypsy.' In other zones, consider adding these to your traditional favorites. In summer seasons where the weather is too hot or too rainy, these varieties will be more apt to grow blossoms and set fruits than the big, beefsteak-type tomatoes and bell peppers.
In your water garden or pond, place hardy water lilies on bricks so the top of each pot is 4 to 6 inches below the water's surface. In Zone 6 you can add tropical water lilies when the water's temperature rises to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. In all other Midwest zones, delay planting tropical lilies until early June.
After removing container-grown plants from their pots, untangle any circling roots before planting. If the roots form a solid mat, "butterfly" the root ball by slicing halfway through from bottom to top, then pulling the two sections apart, like a butterfly spreads its wings.
After danger of frost, plant geraniums in containers or in well-drained garden soil. To help plants stay healthy, avoid crowding. Water the soil, not the leaves, and remove any spotted leaves as soon as you see them.
In Zones 4 through 6, prune straggly forsythia branches. Postpone major pruning (removal of up to a third of the oldest, thickest stems) until next winter.
Wait until the weather is warm and settled before planting cold-sensitive caladiums, lantanas, and flowering vincas.
In Zones 2 through 4, hurry peonies into blooming for Memorial Day by cutting stems that have fat flower buds. After pinching off side buds, immerse the stems in a bucket of warm water.
UMW Round Up
(second Saturday in June)
In Zones 2 and 3, thin flower and vegetable seedlings to help plants make the most of the short growing season. Delay spreading mulch until the soil is warm.
In Zones 4-6 plant heat-tolerant varieties of lettuce such as 'Simpson Elite' and 'Buttercrunch' where they'll be shaded by taller plants.
Encourage beautiful butterflies by planting milkweeds for monarchs, and dill and fennel for swallowtails.
In Zones 5 and 6, pinch off tips of blackberries as soon as the canes are 3 feet tall.
Shear tops of asters and chrysanthemums to prevent straggly plants this fall. Finish the job by mid-June in Zones 2 and 3, by the end of the month in Zones 4 and 5, and by mid-July in Zone 6.
If sycamore or ash leaves brown and drop, rake up fallen leaves to help control anthracnose, a fungus disease that often attacks when spring is cool and wet. Don't panic if honeylocust leaves are deformed. The damage, caused by the feeding of plant bugs, is temporary; a new crop of leaves will open soon.
As soon as the water temperature rises to 70 degrees Fahrenheit in Zones 2-5, place tropical water lilies and bog plants in the water garden. If you don't have fish, add a Mosquito Dunk tablet (available at garden centers) to kill mosquito larvae without harming pets or other animals that drink from the water.
Encourage delphiniums to bloom again by shearing off old blossoms as soon as they fade.
To avoid spreading fungus disease, delay working in the garden after a rain until the foliage has dried.
Help your bluegrass lawn survive summer's heat by mowing tall, with the height of the mower's cutting blade set at 3 inches.
When lily blossoms fade in Zones 4-6, clip off the entire seed head. Leave the rest of the stalk and the leaves to help build a bigger bulb.
To keep daylilies attractive and healthy, remove any streaked or yellow leaves.
Renew perennial geraniums by shearing off old growth as soon as the flowers fade and the plants start to look ratty. To improve the appearance of annual geraniums, pick off dead flowers and yellowed leaves.
At the first signs of brown rot in Zones 5 and 6, spray peaches with wettable sulfur.
In Zones 2 and 3 sow lettuce seeds midmonth for a fall harvest.
Cut back by half 'Silver Mound' artemisia in Zones 3-6 anytime the plant flops open and exposes its center.
Despite hot weather, don't hesitate to fill gaps in the flower border with new container-grown plants.
Conserve water in dry areas by allowing your lawn to go dormant. It will green up again as soon as rains return. Mulch all garden beds to conserve moisture, and give extra water to moisture-loving plants such as astilbes and ferns.
Where rains are plentiful, mow your lawn using the "one-third rule": Remove no more than one-third the height of the grass.
Help herbs such as basil and oregano retain their best flavor by pinching off flowers as soon as they form.
Whenever the garden needs water, the compost pile should get watered, too.
Withhold fertilizer from roses for the rest of the growing season so the plants can toughen up for winter.
In Zones 3 and 4 dig and divide crowded oriental poppies or plant new ones. In Zones 5 and 6 postpone both jobs until late August or early September.
Lightly shear straggly-looking alyssum and lobelia plants to encourage a new round of blooms when the weather cools.
Prevent fungal disease of large-flowered marigolds by removing blossoms as soon as they fade.
In Zones 5 and 6 pick peaches as soon as they soften and release easily from the tree, but you don't need to wait for Bartlett pears to fully ripen. Pick pears when their color changes from dark to light green and the fruit releases easily with a gentle tug. Allow them to continue ripening at a temperature near 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
Set cans under ripening muskmelons to support them and keep them off the ground. Harvest as soon as they turn from green to tan or yellow and come off the vine with a gentle tug.
If the soil in containers dries out and begins to pull away from the sides, water slowly and repeatedly, pushing the soil back in place as it absorbs moisture.
In late August plant fall-flowering crocus and colchicum bulbs. In Zones 3 and 4, choose hardy species such as Crocus nudiflorus and Colchicum autumnale.
****************************************************** Don't forget:
Southern Mn Round Up
Start saving milk jugs for Wintersowing.
For unusual autumn blooms in Zones 4 through 6, plant colchicum and fall-flowering crocus bulbs. Hardy varieties such as Giant and Waterlily will survive in protected sites in Zone 3. In Zone 6, the beautiful, but less hardy, Sternbergia lutea resembles a crocus, with yellow blooms.
Pot some herbs from the garden to grow indoors this winter. Basil and parsley will thrive indoors in a sunny window. Give rosemary an indoor home for the winter, too, unless you grow a winter-hardy variety in Zone 6.
Stockpile newspapers for covering plants when frost threatens. If an unexpected frost in Zones 2 through 4 catches your plants uncovered this month, you might save them by hosing off the frost early in the morning before sunlight hits the leaves.
Plant bluegrass, fescue and other cool-season grasses in the lawn's bare spots now, while the cooler fall temperatures favor grass, not weeds. If sod webworms or billbugs trouble your lawn, choose perennial ryegrass or fescue seed labeled "endophyte-enhanced" for an environmentally friendly way to beat the pests.
Water plants, if nature doesn't. Give priority to perennials, trees, and shrubs planted this year and to new grass seedlings.
Drape two layers of floating row-cover fabric over the lettuce bed to extend the harvest of fresh salads in Zones 2 through 4.
To make garden cleanup easier, buy or make a bin to hold compost.
Use a mulching mower to shred autumn leaves that are piling up on the grass. Or use a mower with a bagger to quickly collect shredded leaves to use as mulch in the garden.
As soon as frost blackens the leaves, dig up cannas, dahlias, and gladioli to store in a cool place indoors. In Zone 6, though, experiment by leaving a few cannas in the ground to see if they will survive.
In Zones 2 and 3, consider using the "Minnesota tip" method to protect tender roses: Tie the canes together with twine, loosen the soil on one side of the bush, then gently tip it into an 8-inch-deep trench that you cover with soil. In warmer zones, wait until after the temperature falls to below 20 degrees Fahrenheit to mulch tender roses for winter protection.
Make sure soil slopes away from the centers of perennial plants so water doesn't collect and freeze in their crowns.
To protect tulip bulbs from hungry squirrels and voles, soak them for 5 minutes in Bulb Guard. Allow the bulbs to dry before planting.
Continue regular watering if the weather is dry. Give priority to recent plantings. Also, spread a blanket of mulch on the ground to give the roots of new plants more time to grow before the ground freezes.
Harvest any remaining vegetables
After the first frost, harvest cool-weather vegetables such as kale and parsnips. Dig Jerusalem artichokes as needed.
Clean up dropped apples or crabapples. Pick and destroy any dried fruit still hanging on the branches.
Rhubarb can be divided
Add leaves and debris compost pile; give the pile a turn.
Clean and oil garden tools (fill a bucket with sand and oil and slide tools in and out of the bucket.)
Rake up and compost fallen leaves on the lawn, and pull weeds before mowing for the last time.
Cut back unsightly plants, or ones loaded with undesirable seeds. Start with a clean up: Cut down and remove the past seasons annuals and vegetables, and add them to the compost pile. Cut back faded or dead foliage on perennials after the first hard frost, and compost. Never compost diseased or pest-infested plants.
Don't forget to leave the dead foliage on some plants that can use the "natural mulch", i.e. hosta, daylily, use your judgement, or research.
Before the ground freezes, water evergreens (especially broad-leaved ones) deeply, and spray them with anti-desiccants if they are planted in exposed, windy areas.
After the ground freezes, mulch perennials, evergreens, and newly planted trees; if necessary, protect them with burlap screens to minimize heaving, desiccation, scalding from intense sun, and other winter damage.
Pick up and store garden ornaments. Cover containers that will remain outdoors to prevent them from filling with water, freezing, and cracking. Clean terra-cotta pots and concrete containers, and store them in the garage or potting shed to protect them from the elements.
Put away your shovels and hand tools, clean and oil if you are tidy!
Store your garden equipment, dump or run gas out of gas-engines.
Once the garden has been put to bed, bring in garden hoses, turn off taps, and take some time to tune-up tools before storing them for the season.
Provide rabbit or deer protection for shrubs and young trees.
Finish planting daffodils and tulips.
Replace temporary plastic markers that came with this year's perennials with metal labels that won't crack in the cold. Renew faded lettering on older labels, too.
Cut peonies back to the ground. Remove all stems, as well as any leaves that have already fallen. In Zones 5 and 6 cut Japanese anemones to the ground after they're blackened by frost.
Shade the tender bark of young beech, maple, and fruit trees from the winter sun by installing spiral vinyl covers or burlap screens.
After the ground freezes in Zones 2 through 4, apply a winter mulch over strawberry plants.
Cut and remove above grown growth of rhubarb and asparagus plants after they're completely frost-blackened, then spread a 1- to 2-inch layer of aged manure or compost around the plants.
Inventory leftover seeds, then store in an airtight container. To keep moisture from damaging seeds, tuck a tissue-wrapped packet of silica gel (you'll find it where craft supplies are sold) into the container.
Store garden stakes and cages in a shed or garage after first scrubbing them with a solution of one part chlorine bleach and nine parts water.
Weather permitting, pick up any garden ornaments you missed, or deadheading you didn't get done. It's still important to get outdoors in nice weather.
Purchase a Christmas Cactus or Amarylis in bloom to bring up the gardening spirits!
Collect any seeds that are still hanging on outdoors.
Clean and organize your seeds. Make a few swaps to get what you are lacking, but avoid swapping too close to Christmas.
Start to Winter Sow, or at least obtain your container supply.
Purchase your seed starting soil and supplies while you are Christmas shopping, so you have it on hand when you are ready.
Watch fresh snowfalls for rabbit activity, and provide protection (or elimination) for your shrubs and small trees. (including roses)
After you roast those chestnuts on the open fire, use a covered metal bucket to store the cooled fireplace ashes for garden fertilizer. Grow your own chestnuts in Zones 4 through 6 by planting some Chinese chestnut trees or disease-resistant Dunstan hybrids next spring.
Install lights for indoor plants in Zones 2 through 4, where winter day length is shortest.
After the soil freezes, add a blanket of shredded leaves or other mulch on the ground around any perennials that are marginally hardy. In Zones 5 and 6, if you're going through a cycle of the soil alternately freezing and thawing, check shallow-root plants such as mums and strawberries. If you find the roots have been pushed above the soil, use your foot to gently push your plants back into place.
If you want an excuse to get outside on a nice day in Zones 3 through 6, inspect your honeysuckle shrubs. Prune and destroy any distorted shoots to eliminate over wintering eggs of Russian aphids. (No time to get outside? Anytime this winter will work just as well.)
Gather branches with berries, evergreen trimmings and dried flowers to decorate window boxes and other outdoor containers.
Check any stored root crops and apples for signs of spoiling. Toss any that have started to rot. Break off and dispose of sprouts on potatoes. Chop and freeze onions that are starting to get soft.
Stay off frozen grass to avoid wearing a path in the lawn.