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Weekly Gardening Tips for Your Area


Jan. 2013 Gardening To-Do List: Zone 3

Susan Wells
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November 2012 To Do Lists: Zone 8

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Now is the time of year to relax indoors and plan for warmer weather! As you are laying out plans for new beds and thinking about renovating old ones, think about trying some new things, maybe some native plants. Consider hardscape, as well. Draw a map of what is already in your garden and overlay what you’d like to change. Think about edging, raised beds, walkways and decks you’d like to add or change. Now might be a good time to draw plans and assemble materials so you will be ready to start building as soon as the weather warms up.

 Annuals, Perennials, Houseplants

Winter is a resting time for most cacti, so be sure not to overwater. Give them just enough water to keep them from shriveling. Set them in a cool, bright spot, ideally where daytime temperatures are no higher than the mid-60s F.

African violets are among the most reliable of indoor winter bloomers, as long as they have sufficient light. Try moving plants to a south-facing window for the winter, or set them under fluorescent grow lights. They are also easy to propagate. To make new plants, take a leaf cutting, dip the cut end in a rooting hormone powder, such as Rootone, and stick the cutting in a pot filled with vermiculite or sand. Cover the pot with a perforated clear plastic bag and keep the rooting mix moist. In a few weeks, you’ll have new plants, which you can pot separately.

Generally, most houseplants need a rest period, so withhold fertilizer during the winter.

Most houseplants also require less water in the winter. Make sure you are not overwatering.

As light levels decrease, you may need to move houseplants for best light exposure. Clean windows or remove screens to allow plants to get maximum light. Or use grow lights.

Set houseplants on trays filled with pebbles and keep the trays filled with water to increase humidity.

Thoroughly water newly purchased plants to leach excess fertilizer and salt build-up from the soil mix.

Know when to say goodbye to a plant. Plants have life spans, some longer than others. If a plant looks scraggly, it may be time to replace it or take cuttings to start a new plant.

Sort through stored tubers, roots and bulbs of dahlias, cannas, gladiolas and begonias. Dispose of anything that has shriveled or decayed. If dahlia tubers are beginning to shrivel, add just a little bit of water to the material they are packed in.

If there is not a lot of snow, check plants in case anything has heaved up from freeze/ thaw cycles. Heavy snow cover is a perfect “mulch,” so if the snow is deep, don’t worry about them. Gently step down any plants that have heaved and replace the mulch.


Spread the wood ashes from your wood burning stove or fireplace in garden beds. Remove chunks, then spread at the rate of 15-20 pounds (about a 5 gallon pail) per 1,000 square feet. Ashes will raise the pH (measure of acidity vs. alkalinity) of your soil, so test often with a soil test kit so that the pH does not exceed 7.0.


Plot your garden or property on graph paper. Check your leftover seeds and make a list of what you need before ordering. It is best to order seeds and plants early to get what you want and to avoid substitution. Order seed starting materials at the same time.


Take cuttings from fruit trees for grafting in April. Wrap the twigs in a wet paper towel, seal the wrapped twigs in a plastic bag, and store the bag in the freezer until spring.

Browning or bleaching of evergreen foliage during winter occurs for four reasons:

Winter sun and wind cause excessive water loss while the roots are in frozen soil and unable to replace lost water. Bright sunny days cause the plant tissue to initiate cellular activity. Then, when the sun goes down, the plant’s temperature drops rapidly and the foliage is injured or killed. New transplants or plants with late season growth are particularly sensitive.

There are several ways to minimize winter injury to evergreens. The first is proper placement of evergreens in the landscape. Yew, hemlock, and arborvitae should not be planted on south or southwest sides of buildings or in highly exposed (windy, sunny) places. You can reduce damage by propping pine boughs or Christmas tree greens against or over evergreens to protect them from wind and sun and to catch more snow for natural protection. You can also construct a barrier of burlap or similar material on the south, southwest, and windward sides of evergreens. If a plant has exhibited injury on all sides, surround it with a barrier, but leave the top open to allow for some air and light penetration.

If an evergreen has suffered winter injury, wait until mid-spring before pruning. Brown foliage is most likely dead and will not green up, but the buds, which are more cold-hardy than foliage, will often grow and fill in areas where foliage was removed. If the buds have not survived, prune dead branches back to living tissue. Fertilize injured plants in early spring and water them well throughout the season.


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