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Polk County Lawn & Garden Checklist for January

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Lawn and Garden Checklist - January

For more info, help, and advice on these or other lawn and garden topics, contact your Polk County Extension Director, Scott Welborn

√  Recycling a Christmas Tree

There are several ways to dispose of 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. It can also provide shade for fish during hot sunny days.

√  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 lower winter humidity in most homes.

√ Winter Watering

Typically, in cold weather, you need to pay close attention to the moisture levels of your outdoor plants. This year, with our heavy rains, it may not be quite as much of an issue, but there are still some types of vegetation to pay attention to. Evergreens 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 and Ice Damage

When snow and ice are predicted, your plants can get an injury from heavy precipitation falling from the roof onto frozen branches–as we have already seen happen some places this season. You can 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 to brush off the snow, but do so carefully. If it’s frozen to the branches, they can easily break. 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:

  • Only plant vegetation that is hardy to our zone (Polk County is Zone 7B).
  • Try to plant tender plants in the highest part of the landscape. Cold air settles in lower lying areas.
  • Protect plants from cold winds with a fence or an evergreen hedge of tall trees.
  • 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.
  • 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 square foot. Or you can add additional compost around your bulbs for an organic boost.
√ 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.

√ Prepping 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.

√ Lawn Care

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. You will also want to apply a fungicide in early March to ensure all the water doesn’t lead to out of control fungal problems in the spring.

NOTE: The use of brand names in this publication does not imply endorsement by the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service of the products or services named nor discrimination against similar products or services not mentioned.