January Horticulture Tips

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January Horticulture Tips

Winter Watering – Evergreen plants continue to take up moisture in the winter. When the ground is frozen or during a dry period, moisture is not available. High winds and warm sun on cold days will increase the amount of moisture the plant needs to survive. You can protect these susceptible plants by planting them in a sheltered area and providing additional water during dry periods or before an expected hard freeze. You should place potted plants in warmer areas to keep the root ball from freezing for days on end. Frozen roots for several days can kill potted plants.

Snow & Ice Damage – Another factor to be concerned about is injury from ice and snow falling from the roof on frozen branches as we have already seen this season. Wrap wide tape or cloth around an evergreen to prevent broken branches. This technique is also helpful for boxwoods and arborvitaes. You can also go out during the snow or ice even and brush off the snow but be careful if it’s frozen on as you can easily break branches. If branches are bent and broken over by heavy ice or snow, wait a few days before pruning or cleaning up. Branches will often recover
without your help.

Here are some other steps to protect your plants from cold damage:
1. Only plant plants that are hardy to our zone (Polk County is zone 7b).
2. Try to plant tender plants in the highest part of the landscape. Cold air settles in lower lying areas.
3. Protect plants from cold winds with a fence or an evergreen hedge of tall trees.
4. Provide some shade for plants from direct winter sun, especially early morning sun. Plants that freeze slowly and thaw slowly will have the least amount of damage.
5. Stop fertilizing plants in late summer and let them harden off for the winter.

Bulbs – Check bulbs in storage. Often dahlia tubers and gladiolus corms are attacked by rot in storage; throw out any with rot. Fertilize spring flowering bulbs when 1” of growth is seen above ground. Use one rounded teaspoon of 10-10-10 per sf. Or you can add additional compost around your bulbs for an organic boost.

Houseplants – The four major causes of houseplant deaths during the winter months are: over-fertilizing, over-watering, under-watering, and improper light. Do not fertilize houseplants in the wintertime. Let your plants go into a dormant (rest) period, a period of reduced growth, so that they will be ready for vigorous growth in the spring months. Make sure you provide your plants with a bright location or supplemental light from florescent bulbs. Misting your plants with water from a spray bottle is often a good idea due to the low winter humidity in most homes.

Recycle Christmas Tree – There are several ways to dispose or recycle your tree. (Before recycling your tree, remove all tinsel and ornaments.) Place the tree in the yard or garden for use by birds and other wildlife. The branches provide shelter from strong winds and cold. Food can be supplied by hanging fruit slices, seed cakes, or suet bags on its branches. You can also smear peanut butter and seeds in pine cones and hang them in the tree. Prune off the branches and place over perennials as winter mulch. Chip the tree and use as mulch around trees, shrubs or in flower beds. Sink the tree into ponds and reservoirs. The fish will use the branches of tree to hide from predators, or feed on snails and aquatic insects found on the structure and most fish will seek the shaded areas during hot sunny days.

In the Garden…..Replenish mulch around trees and shrubs to 3-6 inches in depth. Think about your spring vegetable garden and begin planting seeds indoors by the end of January. Florescent lights hung right over your plants will give you a better plant than simply using a window. Take time now to plan landscapes for spring plantings. Garden catalogs arrive early this month. Order seed early while stock is adequate.

Strawberry Beds – Mulch strawberry beds for winter protection using wheat straw or pine needles. Pull the mulch back when blooms appear.

Pruning Muscadines – January is the best calendar month to prune muscadines.
Muscadines are very vigorous vines that require annual pruning to restrict growth and to encourage annual bearing. You will want to develop a main trunk. This is permanent on a muscadine vine. Remove any tendrils that have wrapped around the cordons or spurs. Also remove old fruit stems since they are sites for overwintering diseases.

Lawns – During a rainy winter period our fescue lawns can look pretty poor. You will
notice yellowing and browning of the lawn due to the cold and wet conditions. You can help to mitigate this by applying a nitrogen fertilizer during warm periods of the winter and you will want to apply a fungicide in late April or early May to ensure all the water doesn’t lead to out of control fungal problems.