Happy New Year! Although the masses would have you believe it’s time for resolutions and new beginnings, we gardeners know the month brings only one thing of importance: Gardening catalogs! As your mailbox fills up, your highlighting marker gets a workout and pages become dog-eared, summon the strength to rise from your easy chair and tend to these chores. They’ll repay you in spring, the gardeners’ season for new beginnings.
1. Reflect upon mistakes of the past and hopes for the future. Are plants crowded? Growing in the wrong place? Sketch out a plan with a list of changes to implement.
2. According to my calendar, January’s flower is the carnation, a nostalgic bloom more common to florists than gardens. Watch the film “Jean de Florette,” and save a patch to plant Dianthus caryophyllus.
3. Gently brush accumulated snow off evergreen branches to prevent buckling and permanent disfigurement. A broom makes easy work of the task.
4. When the temperature rises above 40 degrees, apply anti-desiccants to evergreens to protect against dehydration.
5. Remove yellowing foliage from tropical plants overwintering indoors.
6. Today is the Epiphany – time to take down the Christmas tree. Remove branches and lay them over garden beds to protect roots, then compost in spring.
7. Check bird feeders often; clean and restock seed as needed. Don’t forget fresh water.
8. Remember houseplants require less water during winter, but they do need humidity. Mist every other day or run a room humidifier, which will benefit humans as well.
9. Order seeds now for annuals if you plan to start them indoors next month.
10. Start a compost pile. Find my detailed instructions at newsday.com/gardening101.
11. Deadhead spent blooms on flowering houseplants, such as African violets.
12. Inspect tree branches for gypsy moth egg cases, which resemble used chewing gum. If found, scrape them off, destroy and discard.
13. Rinse houseplant foliage (or gently wipe with a damp cloth) to remove dust. Plants will “breathe” easier.
14. Avoid walking on frozen grass. Doing so damages tender grass blades.
15. Rotate plant pots one-quarter turn with each watering to ensure even sun exposure.
16. Check on stored bulbs, corms and tubers. Mist if they’re drying out, and discard any that are molding or shriveled.
17. Take a stroll through the garden keeping an eye out for roots that may have heaved out of the soil. Press them back in with your foot and cover with mulch.
18. Examine stored bog plants and throw away any that have rotted.
19. If houseplants are outgrowing their pots, replant into the next-size container, not more than two inches larger than the current pot. Don’t fertilize until next month.
20. The World Peace Rose Garden in Atlanta has dedicated a rose garden to the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Plan to plant your own this year.
21. If fish ponds have frozen, carefully hold a pot of steaming hot water over the surface to melt an opening for gasses to escape. Avoid poking holes in ice, a practice that can harm fish.
22. Look closely for pests on the undersides of houseplant leaves, where many like to hide.
23. Take inventory of seed-starting supplies, then clean and sterilize equipment to help ensure the healthiest seedlings this year.
24. Pile shoveled show onto plant beds to insulate roots.
25. Cut flowering shrub branches (forsythia, lilac, etc.) and place in a bucket of warm water indoors. Trim cut ends while submerged and move to a vase in 2 to 3 hours. They’ll bloom in a week or two.
26. Order plants and supplies as soon as you’ve made your selections; most nurseries and catalogs won’t ship until planting time.
27. Start parsley, onions and leeks from seed indoors.
28. If the weather cooperates, begin pruning fruit trees. You have until the end of March to complete the task.
29. March is the ideal time to cut down ornamental grasses, but do it now if they’re looking shabby.
30. Start seeds of slow-growing annuals, like verbena and snapdragon, indoors.
31. For more garden tips and conversation, follow the Garden Detective on Facebook (JessicaDamiano), Instagram (JesDamiano) and Twitter (@JessicaDamiano).