January is a month for gardeners to dream and plan. With the rush of the holiday season behind us, take advantage of this quiet winter month to get ready for spring.
Here are some tasks you may want to tackle:
• Put out bird feeders and keep them filled. If you place a feeder close to a window, you can enjoy watching and identifying the different birds that pay you a visit. Attracting feathered friends to your landscape has an added benefit in the spring when the birds can help control insect pests.
• While you are outside filling the feeder, examine your shade and fruit trees. When you get a nice day in late winter, you can prune the trees while they are still dormant. Make sure you get rid of any diseased or damaged branches.
Michigan State University provides a helpful guide on pruning deciduous trees that you can find here: http://www.msuextension.org/gallatin/documents/horticulturedocuments/PruningDeciduousTrees.pdf
• Also, take a critical look at your garden’s structure. The bare bones view of your landscape in January can help you identify what’s missing. Do you need to add more evergreens, or large or small trees or shrubs?
Do you need more structural elements, like garden paths, a shed, or a gazebo? Do you need an evergreen screen or fence along a property line for increased privacy or to block out an unsightly view like a compost pile?
Do you have a sunny spot where you can tuck in a small raised bed vegetable garden? Or perhaps you want to carve out a space to entertain and relax in the shade?
• Go inside and sketch out your ideas on paper. Plan your vegetable garden. What are you going to grow this year and how many plants/seeds will you need? Write out a list of changes that you want to make in the garden this year. Brainstorm a list of plants that you would love to try in your garden.
• For inspiration, browse through magazines and read gardening books. Specialty gardening magazines will be hitting the store shelves soon. These magazines are packed with beautiful pictures and articles about real gardens. If a plant combination or design idea catches your interest, flag it and try to mimic it in your garden.
Also, make note of the articles that showcase new varieties of flowers and vegetables that you may want to try this year. Visit the Findlay-Hancock County Public Library for a nice selection of gardening books on a variety of topics, from landscape design to basic gardening how-to.
• Spend quality time reviewing the new seed and plant catalogs. They should be clogging your mailbox soon if they haven’t already. If you are new to gardening, you can check out the websites of many seed and plant companies. Make a list of the seeds/plants you want to try and place your order early, because popular new varieties sell out fast.
• Inventory your gardening tools and supplies. If you didn’t clean your gloves or tools in the fall, bring them inside and do it now. You can soak gardening tools (like hand spades and hand pruners) in a mixture of water and bleach to sanitize.
Some gardeners paint the handles of their tools bright orange in the winter so they are easier to find in the garden come spring. Make a list of the tools that you need to replace and start shopping.
• Try to recruit your family members who don’t share your passion for gardening (spouse, children, grandchildren, etc.) to help you in the spring. Because they are stuck indoors and missing the warmer weather, you may be able to enthrall them with your gardening plans and convince them that it will be fun to be outside, with the warm sun on their back, helping you in the garden come spring. Get a firm commitment to help and hold them to it in a few months!
Laurie Wurth Pressel is an Ohio State University Extension Master Gardener volunteer intern in Hancock County.
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