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.)
Don’t grow something in bulk that you can’t harvest and/or cure and store properly, even if it’s a staple of your diet. Do the research in advance.
Meet with your fellow gardeners to compare orders and swap partial packets or plants.
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. Add it to open areas now that will be planted in a couple of months.
Collaborate with friends to plan and compare orders and swap partial packets or plants. Share your seeds from your garden with youth or community garden programs.
Nematodes are not fond of organic material in the garden, so keep up the good work with your compost bin!
Flowers and Houseplants
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, non-chemical methods such as a simple shower, insecticidal soap spray or an alcohol swab with a Q-tip are usually successful.
Always thoroughly water newly purchased potted plants to rinse excess fertilizer and salt build-up from the soil. If the weather permits, do this outside or in the shower.
In January, prune off as much as 1/2 to 3/4 of your rose bush height, leaving 3-5 good, strong canes. 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 them in the trash, not your compost bin. (Remember that many diseases are soil borne.)
When choosing plants for your pond, it’s important to include the two types of plants: submerged pond plants (such as anacharis and milfoil), and floating-leaved plants (like as water lilies). In shallow areas at the edges and beyond, you may want to include marginal or bog plants (like rushes and cattails). To keep algae growth in check, plants should eventually cover only three-quarters of the surface of your pond. Initially, place plants in garden soil in containers or tubs with any holes blocked. Once the plant material is established, it will help limit algae blooms in the water.
Trees and Shrubs
If transplanting a young tree, protect it from full sun. It should thrive with some afternoon shade.
Follow the 3 D’s of pruning: remove dead, damaged and diseased limbs.
To help your home orchard produce more fruit, prune out small, twiggy branches, in order to allow more sunlight and air flow to reach the center of the tree.
Container grown trees can be planted at the same depth as they are potted. When planting a B-and-B tree (balled and burlapped), dig your planting hole twice the diameter of the root ball. Mound some soil in the bottom of the hole and place the root ball on the mound. Untie the secured wrapping and gently rock the tree side to side to loosen the roots and spread them down over the mound. The unwrapped burlap can stay in the hole to decompose, but remove any wire or rope that was placed around the root ball or trunk. Backfill the hole, firming the soil gently as you go. Deeply water the tree, then mulch. Leave the mulch a few inches away from the trunk.
Use care to not plant your new tree too deeply. Most don’t like wet feet, and planting a little above the soil line helps drainage.
Make sure you have allowed enough space for the tree’s mature size. Plants placed too close together (or too close to the house) are prime targets for disease and other problems.
Continue to re-evaluate the low-maintenance and exciting options of xeriscaping.
Let your grass tell you when to water it. You can tell when the grass is approaching a wilting stage when the blades start to curl. Water only to replenish.
Both overwatering and over-fertilizing will create problems with pests and disease.
Know your opponents! Study what vulnerabilities exist for your particular type of turf and come up with a plan for treatment. Early identification allows the opportunity to minimize chemical treatments.