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Garden Detective: January chores

After snowfall, gently brush snow from evergreen branches

After snowfall, gently brush snow from evergreen branches with a broom to prevent buckling and cracking. Credit: AP

In Roman mythology, Janus was a two-faced god who simultaneously looked at the past and the future. So it makes sense the first month of the year was named for him. It's time to reflect upon last year (did you keep on top of weeds or forget to water the tomatoes?) and make a game plan for 2013. Couple your experience with some forethought, and you'll find yourself looking ahead to greener pastures.

1. Throughout the winter when snow blankets your beds, make like a Beatle and let it be. The igloo effect insulates and protects roots.

2. Apply anti-desiccants to evergreens, especially the recently planted, to protect against winter dehydration -- but only when it's warmer than 40 degrees.

3. Grow food in winter: Soak seeds (alfalfa, barley, flax, etc.) in a cheesecloth-covered jar of water overnight. Strain, then rinse 2-3 times daily to keep moist until sprouted. Add to salads and sandwiches.

4. Inspect the garden for plant crowns that lifted out of the ground by freeze-thaw cycles. If you spot any, push down with your foot and mulch over.

5. Avoid walking on frozen grass.

6. It's Three Kings day! Take down the Christmas tree and use its branches to protect perennials in the garden. In spring, add to compost or chip into mulch.

7. Wipe houseplant leaves to remove dust so lenticels (tiny pores that allow gasses to reach plant tissue) can do their job.

8. If you've forgotten clay pots outdoors and they've cracked, break them up and use them to aid soil drainage in spring.

9. Snip off yellow foliage or leaf tips from houseplants.

10. Restock bird feeders. Don't forget clean water.

11. Check tree branches for gypsy moth egg cases (look for beige, chewed-gum-type blobs). Remove, destroy and discard in the trash.

12. Test old seeds before tossing: Place a few in a folded wet paper towel in a dark, warm spot. Moisten daily and check for sprouting. Give it 2-3 weeks.

13. Repot indoor plants, but don't fertilize until next month.

14. Hold a pot of steaming water over frozen ponds to gently melt an opening in the surface and release trapped gasses that can poison fish.

15. Inspect bog plants overwintering indoors and discard any that may have rotted.

16. After snowfall, gently brush snow from evergreen branches with a broom to prevent buckling and cracking.

17. Curl up with all those garden catalogs that have been filling your mailbox and start placing orders before they run out of the good stuff.

18. Inspect arbor supports and ties that fasten climbing plants and vines. Tighten any that are loose.

19. Rotate houseplant pots to the sun daily.

20. Just as radiators and forced-air heating chap our lips and hands, houseplants suffer, too. Run a humidifier for both your sakes.

21. Are leaves drooping? Turning yellow or brown? Most houseplants should be watered thoroughly and then not again until the soil is dry.

22. If you've rooted cuttings in the fall and they're getting leggy, pinch them back a bit and change the water.

23. Take an inventory of seeds and supplies so you'll know what needs to be replenished.

24. Reapply deer and rodent repellents.

25. Check stored bulbs and corms. If any are beginning to shrivel, sprinkle with water. Discard any that have rotted.

26. Monitor tree and shrub branches and prune those that are broken.

27. Inspect indoor plants for pests, taking care to check under leaves where many hide.

28. When blooms are faded, deadhead forced amaryllis, but discard paperwhites.

29. Start parsley, onion and leek seeds indoors in a dark spot, and move into bright light as soon as they sprout.

30. Begin pruning dormant fruit trees. Finish up by the end of March to avoid sacrificing fruit.

31. Start slow-growing annuals like ageratum, nicotiana, snapdragons and verbena indoors.

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