Although it’s January, it’s time to start thinking about making strawberry jams and jellies later this year – if you want to grow your own berries, that is. Bare root plants are typically offered for sale this month and next. These strawberry plants are dormant perennials, sold with moist sphagnum moss or sawdust wrapped around their roots.
Look for June-bearing strawberries, which produce most of their crop over a three week period in spring, or everbearing types, which yield fewer berries at any one time, but continue to produce for a longer period. June bearers are the best bet if you’re planning to preserve the fruits, so you can make a big batch of jam or jelly all at once.
- Plant asparagus, which is also a dormant, bare root perennial. Gardeners in mild winter areas may need to chill them in the refrigerator before planting, so an unexpected hard freeze doesn’t kill them.
- Pile mulch on top of root crops to help moderate the soil temperature in freezing weather. If voles and borers don’t bother them, they should keep pretty well in the ground this winter.
- If you plan to set out lettuce, snap peas, and other early crops in March, start the seeds this month.
- Seed potatoes need to be planted at least two weeks before the last frost. ‘Yukon Gold’ and ‘Norland Red’ can be harvested before the worst heat of summer.
- Keep pansies mulched to enjoy them all winter. They’ll succumb to the heat, but until them, they survive freezes by drawing water from their above-ground parts into the roots. When temperatures rise, the water is released back into the flowers and foliage.
- Plant container grown or bare root roses now; keep them mulched and watered.
- Sow the seeds of frost-tolerant perennials. Start the seeds of summer-blooming annuals indoors so they’ll be ready to transplant in March.
- Plant summer and fall blooming perennial bulbs.
- Dig and divide dormant hostas, asters, phlox and other perennials.
- Prune camellias after the blooms are finished.
- Prune back old blueberries canes (5 years or older). Leave 5 to 7 younger fruiting canes. While you’ll get fewer berries this spring, they’ll be larger and sweeter than if the plants are left unpruned.
- Prune fruit trees by removing any damaged or diseased wood. Then prune out the vertical water sprouts. Work on encouraging strong horizontal branching and focus on a strong central leader for apple and pear trees.
- Peach trees can be pruned into an urn or vase shape; they don’t require a central leader.
- If you’re planting fescue next month, prepare the soil now by tilling and adding a nitrogen-heavy lawn fertilizer, such as a 22-2-2. Follow instructions on the package, and wait to till until the soil is dry enough to crumble in your hand.
- Remove all weeds, including the roots, from the area you’re planting with fescue.