January is planning month in the garden.
As you plan, remember that using native plants in your landscape design doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice order, rhythm and texture. Rhythm is created by the repetition of a particular shape, texture, or color. Textures create contrast within a planting bed. The spiky or twisted texture of yucca or the airy quality of some native grasses lure the eye when placed in beds among smaller, finer textured native plants such as salvias and ferns. Utilizing strong lines in the landscape controls the viewer’s eye better than any other design element. Lines can be continuous, or dotted. Curved lines are generally relaxing and seem to correspond with a natural landscape. Remember that the eye will follow the complete arc of a curve. By controlling where the arc of a bed line sits, you can control the view of your home and garden.
Vegetables, Fruits and Berries
Begin planning your crops and ordering seeds and seed-starting supplies.
Grow from seed yourself what is precious: things such as organic baby greens or juicy colorful heirloom tomatoes.
When you have a good list of things you want to grow, ask yourself, which ones are really worth growing from seed? The answer may be, anything that grows better direct-seeded than transplanted, and things you want to make repeat sowings of, including beans, peas, squash and pumpkins, spinach and salad greens, cucumbers, root crops like carrots and beets, braising greens, dill, basil, melons, and corn.
With transplants, like tomatoes or peppers, ask yourself, “Really . . . how many plants of each will I need?” Who needs 50 cherry tomato plants in the home garden? (50 heads of garlic is a different thing.)
Once you’ve pared your list, consider adding a couple of indulgences. You have earned it!
Don’t grow something in bulk that you can’t harvest, cure and store properly, even if it’s a staple of your diet. Do the research in advance.
If you are adding wood ash to your garden (making it more alkaline), be sure not to add it to areas with newly planted seeds or fresh transplants.
Flowers and Houseplants
In January, prune off as much as 1/2 to 3/4 of your rose bush height, leaving 3-5 good, strong canes. In This is specifically for hybrid teas older than 2 years. For newer plantings, take off less. Climbers need a good two years in the ground before a major pruning but after that, plan to take as much as ½, tying the canes so they flow horizontally, allowing for vertical stems that will produce your new growth. When leaves drop off of your roses rake them up and put in trash, not in compost. (Remember that many diseases are soil borne.)
Generally, most houseplants need a rest period, so withhold fertilizer during the winter, and cut back watering them, too.
Keep an eye out for signs of houseplant pests like spider mites, mealy bugs and scale insects. If you catch them before they get out of hand, nonchemical methods such as a simple shower, insecticidal soap spray or an alcohol swab and Q-tip are usually successful.
Set houseplants on trays filled with pebbles and keep the trays filled with water to increase humidity.
Trees and Shrubs
If the soil is workable, it is possible to plant trees and shrubs this month. Remember to plan for the mature size of the plant when you are trying to determine where to place it.
That river birch really will get 70 feet tall and 40 feet wide.
January is a good time to prune fruit trees and any evergreens that need it. If you plan to plant peas or pole beans in the spring, save some of the branches you’ve pruned off to make teepees in the garden for climbers. Take off side branches and store the poles under the porch or in another dry spot.
If you use a chainsaw to do pruning, remember it doesn’t take much to dull a sharp chain.
Here are a few guidelines to recognize when it’s time to sharpen or replace your chain:
- When the chain no longer self-feeds. This is the most obvious signal to re-sharpen. A properly sharpened chain pulls itself down through the cut. If you find yourself pushing on the saw to make it cut, or using the bucking spikes to apply heavy leverage, it’s time to sharpen the chain.
- A properly sharpened saw chain expels nice, square wood chips. If your chain saw is producing dust instead of chips, it’s time to sharpen.
It’s important to stop cutting when you realize your chain is dull. Forcing a dull chain to cut subjects the power head, chain, sprocket and guide bar to unnecessary wear and tear. Dull or improperly maintained saw chains are the true source of most bar-related failures. Dull chains also are a safety hazard and another good reason to stop cutting when the chain gets dull.
Keep an eye on the level of bar oil in the gas powered chain saw, and add as needed. A good rule of thumb is to fill the oil reservoir whenever you fill the fuel tank.
As you are scraping or blowing snow and clearing ice off your driveway, remember that high amounts of salt can damage your lawn. Use sand mixed with fertilizer instead.
Put stakes along the driveway and walkways to mark them so you don’t scrape up your lawn as you clear the paved areas.