Growing Green: Plan your garden now
Here is a list of gardening items that you can think about doing, even in winter.
Choose seeds, bulbs and woody plants from catalogs and order early. Some varieties sell out quickly. Be sure to look for disease and pest resistance when purchasing vegetable and flower seeds.
Check trees and shrubs for animal damage. Pull any mulch away from trunks where bark can be gnawed or stripped off.
Water recently-planted trees and shrubs if there is little or no rain or snow and if the ground is not frozen.
Monitor trees and shrubs for winter damage. Limbs damaged by ice or snow should be pruned off promptly to prevent bark from tearing.
Prune apple and pear trees in late winter. “Seed” fruit trees such as peach, plum and cherry are pruned in mid-April.
Monitor houseplants for spider mites, aphids, white fly, fungus gnats and mealy bugs. Fluffy, white mealy bugs are easily killed by touching them with a cotton swab soaked in rubbing alcohol. Insecticidal soap sprays can be safely applied to most houseplants for the control of many insect pests.
Clean the dust from large and smooth-leaved houseplants like dracaena, philodendron and ficus on a regular basis. This allows the leaves to gather more light and results in better growth.
If fungus develops on your potted herbs, cut them back to encourage healthy new growth.
Using a purchased soil-less potting mix, transplant rooted cuttings brought inside last fall. Keep soil evenly moist.
Keep poinsettias out of drafts, evenly moist and in bright, indirect light to prolong their beauty.
Check stored summer-blooming bulbs for rot or decay and discard those affected. Lightly mist any that are “wrinkled.”
Continue adding kitchen scraps to the compost pile. Use wood ashes sparingly on the garden, lawn and compost pile.
Plan your vegetable garden, rotating crops to discourage pests.
Make an inventory of the plants in your home landscape. Note their location and past performance. Plan changes on paper now.
Observe your garden’s “skeleton” and decide where to put new paths and structures like arbors.
Check for frost heaving on perennials and cover with extra mulch as necessary.
Prune forsythia, pussy willow, quince, etcetera, for forcing indoors.
Watch for signs of growth in early spring bulbs. When foliage is one-inch high, gradually start removing mulch. Cloudy days are best for the initial exposure of the leaves to strong sunlight which can burn tender foliage.
Place bird feeders no more than 20 feet away from cover, such as trees, shrubs or brush so birds will feed protected. Provide a water source, such as a heated waterer, fountain or birdbath, if there is no natural water source nearby.
In late February or early March, if soil conditions allow, take a chance sowing peas, spinach and radish. If the weather obliges, you’ll be rewarded with extra early harvests.
Repair lawnmower and garden equipment.
Now is the time to learn to identify trees by their winter twigs and buds.
Most importantly, take time to enjoy the season.
“Growing Green” is contributed by Lehigh County Extension Office Staff and Master Gardeners. Information: Lehigh County Extension Office, 610-391-9840; Northampton County Extension Office, 610-746-1970.