Gardening Notes For January

January always begins with the big bang of the New Year’s celebration, but the reality of cold temperatures, short days and a sleeping garden soon return.  This year is certainly no different, but at least the snowstorms have remained at bay!  We now have the leisure of working in the Garden when the time or the weather suits our schedule.  It is a time of little stress when the garden stands still.  Continue your journals while taking note of the temperatures, snowfall amounts, the sightings of visiting birds all while enjoying your favorite winter beverage.

Things to do: 

  • Plain your vegetable and annual gardens!  As you begin to read those seed catalogues, keep your design handy so you do not buy more seed than is needed.
  • Reread your journal from the past year.  Take note of some of the major problems you encountered in 2014 that can be resolved in 2015.
  • Study the winter bones of the garden.  During the calm of winter, give thought to improvements that can be made for improved winter enjoyment, such as the planting of Red Stemmed Dogwoods or Willows, views to screen, etc.
  • Take care of your tools!  Sharpen, clean, oil and otherwise repair saws and pruners.  Sharpen the cutting edge of spades and lawnmower blades, repair the handles of shovels and wheelbarrows or any other tool placed on the ‘to be fixed’ pile.  Compose a list of tools to purchase that are in a state beyond repair.
  • Start to evaluate pruning needs.  Typically, most pruning is completed in January through late March, with the heaviest pruning reserved for late February and early March.  January is the time to evaluate plants for heavy cuts, and to begin structural work, shaping and thinning of small trees and shrubs.  All rubbing or potentially rubbing branches should be removed as well as any necessary shaping.  Suckers (vigorous shoots originating from the roots) should be removed and t watersprouts (vigorous shoots originating from branches) should be thinned.
  • Cut some branches of winter blooming Witchhazels (Hamamelis hybrids), Winter Sweet (Chimonanthus praecox) and Winter Jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum), to force and enjoy indoors.
  • If snow is absent, start cutting back Hellebore Hybrids (Helleborus x hybridus) towards the end of January.  A warm February will often promote the start of blooming and it is easier to remove the foliage when the buds are not present.
  • Check any potted plants that you have in a warm garage or basement for watering needs.  Keep them on the dry side so they do not begin to push vigorous growth.
  • If you have Colocasia or Alocasia tubers stored in a peat, potting soil mix or wood chips for the winter, lightly water the mix periodically to prevent desiccation.
  • By and large, most of your houseplants need to be kept on the dry side during winter, as too much water will cause root rot.  Put your Poinsettias, Amaryllis or Cyclamen in a sunny southern window and water when the top of the soil becomes dry. 
  • If you have Coleus or other easy to root annuals in containers, you may wish to start cuttings of new plants in late January, building up your supply for the summer garden.
  • Repair fences!  Perennials, vegetables, vines or other plants that resent foot traffic typically surround many fences and prevent access during the growing season.
  • Set-up and fill bird feeders.
  • Remove snow from hedges and tightly grown plants to prevent breakage, should it actually snow this year!
  • Most important – pour yourself a cup of good tea or a glass of wine to celebrate your garden accomplishments of 2013.  Personal accomplishments deserve a personal reward and no one knows those accomplishments better than you!