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January in the garden

January in the garden Photo Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas

It's almost January, a time for new beginnings and resolutions, but a glance out my window onto my frozen landscape doesn't exactly provide warm and fuzzy feelings. So I'm slipping into my recliner and thinking ahead to spring, flipping through the seed catalogs that have already begun to arrive and dreaming of a basketful of tomatoes and newly transplanted roses. To help the joys of spring arrive easily, the chores of winter must be attended to now.

1. Happy New Year! Renew tropicals overwintering indoors by removing yellowing foliage.

2. Restock bird feeders and be sure to provide clean water.

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

4. Be careful not to overwater houseplants; most don't require much water during winter.

5. As long as the ground isn't frozen, you can plant the bulbs you didn't get around to planting in fall, but expect smaller plants this year.

6. It's the Epiphany: time to take down the Christmas tree. Trim branches and use as mulch over garden beds.

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

8. Mist houseplants every other day with room-temperature water or run a humidifier.

9. Avoid walking on frozen turf.

10. Gently rinse houseplant foliage, trim brown leaves and repot into a slightly larger container, but don't fertilize until next month.

11. Order seeds for annuals now for starting next month.

12. Reapply deer and rodent repellents.

13. When temperatures are above 40 degrees, spray broadleaf evergreens with anti-desiccant to protect from winter damage.

14. Check tree branches for beige-colored blobs. They're gypsy-moth egg cases. Remove, destroy and discard in the trash.

15. Check stored bulbs and corms, sprinkle with water if necessary and discard any that have rotted.

16. Gently poke a hole through frozen fish ponds to release gasses, or hold a potful of steaming water over ice to melt an opening in the surface.

17. Rotate houseplant pots with every watering to keep them from bending toward the light.

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

19. When shoveling snow, pile it onto perennial beds as long as you haven't salted. It'll add extra insulation, igloo-like.

20. Inspect indoor plants for pests, taking care to check under leaves where many prefer to live.

21. Check bog plants overwintering indoors and discard those that are rotting.

22. Clean and sterilize seed-starting supplies to avoid spreading damping-off and other diseases.

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

24. Check perennials and bulbs in the garden and use your foot to push back those that have lifted out of the ground.

25. Order vegetables and perennials. The most popular seeds and plants will sell out soon. Most nurseries time shipping for spring planting.

26. Start parsley, onions and leeks indoors. Start seeds in a dark location, and as soon as there are sprouts move them into bright light - under fluorescent grow lights or by a super sunny windowsill.

27. Begin pruning dormant fruit trees, but be sure to complete the task by the end of March.

28. Brush snow off evergreen limbs with a broom to avoid deformities and breakage.

29. Cut branches of forsythia, dogwood, honeysuckle, lilac, quince and redbud and place in vases to bloom early.

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

31. Get my daily tips and gardening updates at and


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