by Charlene Burgi
It is cold and wet outside. The storms just keep moving in, exacerbating already unwelcoming conditions in the garden. The thought of working outside is shunned as thoughts drift toward indoor activities. At best, our focus turns toward the gardening catalogs that filter into our mailboxes at this time of year—we can dream, right?
Let's face it, even avid gardeners find that January in the garden holds less appeal. Yet garden chores beckon. Fruit trees require pruning, as do our roses and shrubs. The second or third treatment of dormant sprays should be applied. Cleaning up the fallen petal litter of our camellias will protect them from fungal petal blight, which can develop in wet conditions. The storms may have left their mark in broken branches that now require removal. Stakes holding young plants upright might be tilting due to wind and soggy soil. And a walk around the garden may reveal low spots where water collects and causes mulch to float away. Erosion may point out where better drainage is needed.
This is the optimal time to plan a trip to the nursery for picking out your bare root trees, shrubs and roses, as well as perennial fruit and vegetable plants such as grapes, strawberries, asparagus, rhubarb and assorted berries. A large selection of ball-and-burlap specimen plants should be available as well. Look for such beauties as dwarf Hinoki cypress and bird’s nest cypress. Various unusual pines and spruce also may be in stock. Remember that bare root as well as ball-and-burlap plants arrive in the dead of winter only.
| Winter houseplant cleaning
On days when it is too wet to work outside, there are still chores that can be done. Rinse the leaves of houseplants with warm water to free them of any dust, and transplant root-bound houseplants to larger containers. Pruning shears can be sharpened and oiled. Bird feeders can be brought into the house and scrubbed with warm soapy water, rinsed, dried and refilled. Seed packets can be organized and checked for viable germination by placing a few seeds in a dampened paper towel to see if they sprout.
A gardener’s list is often endless. And even when physical chores are in order, plan for what can be added or improved in the garden in the spring. As I write this, visions of a quiet, outdoor-sitting area entertain me. January: a time to do and a time to dream.