GENERAL GARDENING TIPS
a garden record book, allowing space to record the
dates of first and last frosts, seed-planting dates,
transplanting, time of bloom, first fruit,
fertilizing, problems with pests, and what worked
and didn't work. Over a period of years, this will
be an invaluable record.
- When using salt to melt ice on walks and
driveways, spread it carefully to avoid damage to
nearby shrubs. Consider using sand, cat litter or
- It's not too early to begin to think of a
strategy for new spring plantings. You might want to
create a drawing of your garden, and use it as a
guide for ordering plants and seeds from the
catalogs that will be arriving in the mail soon.
- When planning changes for next spring, for
easier lawn maintenance, consider correcting hard to
mow spaces. Eliminate acute angles in beds and
borders. Combine single trees or shrubs into a large
planting connected with ground cover. Put the bird
bath in a flower bed or surround it with ground
- To clean crusty clay pots, add one cup each of
white vinegar and household bleach to a gallon of
warm water and soak the pots. For heavily crusted
pots, scrub with a steel wool pad after soaking for
- If you have not already done so, move cast stone
and pottery to the garage or basement in order to
prevent damage during the cold winter season. If
containers are too large to move, cover them to
prevent water collecting in them or turn them upside
down during the winter so water will not collect,
freeze and cause breakage.
- Fireplace ashes can be saved to use as
fertilizer for your Iris and other alkaline soil
loving plants. Take care not to use too much.
- Make sure your lawn is free of leaves. Rake up
and chop the leaves to use as mulch or to add to
your compost pile.
- It’s still a good time to have a soil test done
through Penn State Cooperative Extension. Their
phone number is 412-473-2540.
SHRUBS & TREES
- Brush snow from evergreens as soon as possible
after a storm. Use a broom in an upward, sweeping
motion. Serious damage may be caused by heavy snow
or ice accumulating on the branches.
- When pruning large limbs, always undercut first.
This means to cut from the bottom up, one-third of
the way through the limb, then finish by cutting
from the top. The undercut keeps the limb from
splitting and breaking off, which could damage the
trunk and become an entryway for insects and
diseases. Do not cut flush to the trunk, the collar
or enlarged base of a branch produces hormones that
help heal wounds.
- This month is a good time to start pruning most
of your deciduous trees and shrubs 'except spring
bloomers. To learn some basic pruning tips read
Pruning Made Easy.
- Forsythia, and Quince branches can be cut and
brought into the house now for forcing. The warmth
in the home will bring some early bloom to your
- If a thaw occurs, apply an anti-desiccant to
newly planted narrow-leaved or broad-leaved
PERENNIALS, ANNUALS and BULBS
- You can force Hyacinth, Paper White Narcissus,
and Lily of the Valley bulbs into bloom indoors, in
a shallow bowl of water, or in pots this month.
- Check any bulbs and tubers you may have stored
to determine the moisture level. Repack bulbs that
seem too damp, discarding any moldy ones. If bulbs
seem too dry, try moving them to another location.
- There is still time to force spring flowering
bulbs for late winter indoor bloom. For step by step
Forcing Bulbs for Winter Color
FRUITS & VEGGIES
- When reviewing your garden catalogs for new
vegetable varieties to try, an important
consideration is improved insect and/or disease
resistance. Watch also for drought-tolerant types.
- Plant containers of herbs for fresh herbs all
winter. To learn more about growing herbs indoors
Growing Herbs Indoors This Winter.
- Remember to wash and sterilize seed-starting
containers before planting seeds. Use 1 part bleach
to 9 parts water.
- Before placing your seed orders, do a
germination test on stored seeds to see how viable
they are. To do this, place 20 seeds between two
sheets of moist paper towels and tuck into a loosely
tied plastic bag. Place in a warm area, and check
every few days. If germination is less than 80
percent, consider purchasing new seed of that crop.
- Avoid heavy traffic on the dormant lawn. Frozen
grass is easily broken and the plant may be severely
damaged or killed.
BIRDS & OTHER WILDLIFE
- Feed the birds regularly and see that they have
water. Birds like suet, fruit, nuts, and bread
crumbs as well as bird seed. Remember to supply
fresh water too.
- To prolong bloom, protect poinsettias from
drafts and keep them moderately moist.
- January is a good time to evaluate the health of
your houseplants and repot those that are
struggling. For repotting instructions read
How to Repot a Houseplant.
- Turn and prune house plants regularly to keep
them shapely. Pinch back new growth to promote bushy
- During the winter most houses are too dry for
house plants. Humidity may be increased by placing
plants on trays lined with pebbles and filled with
water to within one half inch of the base of the
- House plants with large leaves and smooth
foliage, such as philodendrons, dracaena and rubber
plant benefit if their leaves are washed at
intervals to remove dust. Dust on the foliage can
clog the leaf's pores; so clean them up a little
with a damp cloth, or a quick shower under the tap.
- Actively growing plants will benefit from a shot
of liquid plant food.
- On very cold nights, it is a good to close the
curtains or blinds between the window and your
houseplants to keep them warm.
- Closely inspect houseplants. Remove aphids from
houseplants with a mixture of equal parts rubbing
alcohol and water and add a drop of dishwashing
detergent. Apply this to troubled plants with a soft
- Provide extra protection to houseplants on
window sills if it is very cold. Place cardboard
between the plants and the glass. Be sure the plants
don't touch the windowpanes.
- If you received a poinsettia or cyclamen as a
holiday gift, keep it blooming by providing proper
care. They like good drainage, so if the pot is
still wrapped in foil, remove the foil or make a
hole in the bottom to allow the water to drain out.
Keep soil moist, but don't overwater.
- The cyclamen with its unique blossoms needs to
be kept cool and evenly moist. Too high
temperatures, too little water, or too low light may
cause leaves to yellow and drop. But with proper
care, the plant should continue to bloom for six to
- Houseplants can improve the health of your
family and improve the beauty and livability of your
home. To learn more read
Houseplants, for better health.
- For tips on winter houseplant care read
Winter Tips for Houseplant Care.
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