It's January — a new month, a new year and a time for new beginnings. Synonymous with resolutions to do better, January is rife with hope, as is the garden, even when it's dormant, bleak and frozen over. I suppose that, too, parallels life, as even when we're at our lowest, there is hope for a new and better tomorrow. So this month, while we're resolving to diet or quit smoking or simply be better people, let's acknowledge that our human condition holds all the promise of an unplanted seed or a dormant rose bush. Happy New Year, everyone, with best wishes for a bountiful and beautiful harvest — in the garden and out.
1. Today is a day for fresh starts. Plan to start something new this year, like a compost pile. Get instructions for that and other how-tos at newsday.com/gardening101.
2. If you received gift plants for the holidays, quarantine them in a separate room for two weeks to ensure they aren’t harboring pests that could spread to other houseplants.
3. Inventory seeds and supplies, making note of what you'll need to replenish for spring.
4. Gardening catalogs should be trickling in. Place plant and seed orders soon, lest they run out of popular items. They'll typically be shipped when the time is right.
5. Apply anti-desiccants to evergreens, especially the recently planted, to protect against dehydration — but only when temps are warmer than 40 degrees.
6. It's the Epiphany: Time to take down the Christmas tree. Recycle branches for mulch over garden beds. In spring, add to compost or chip into mulch.
7. Did you neglect to plant spring bulbs? As long as there isn’t snow cover and the soil is soft enough to dig into, you can do it now.
8. Mist houseplants every other day with room-temperature water, or run a humidifier.
9. Here's a project for you: Soak seeds (alfalfa, barley, flax, etc.) in a cheesecloth-covered jar of water overnight. Strain, then rinse two to three times daily until sprouted. Add to salads and sandwiches.
10. Remove yellowing foliage from tropicals overwintering indoors.
11. Keep off frozen or muddy turf. Winter foot traffic can injure grass blades and — worse — damage soil structure, which is very difficult to reverse.
12. Restock bird feeders and be sure to provide clean water.
13. If you planted evergreens last year, protect them with burlap to avoid wind and snow damage.
14. Deadhead African violets and other flowering houseplants.
15. Keep houseplants away from heat sources, and rotate pots a quarter-turn daily to ensure even sunlight exposure.
16. Check tree branches for gypsy moth egg cases — gray blobs that resemble used chewing gum. If found, remove, destroy and discard in the trash.
17. If you’ve rooted cuttings in the fall and they’re growing leggy, pinch them back a bit and change the water.
18. Dust houseplant leaves so lenticels (tiny pores that allow gasses to reach plant tissue) can do their job.
19. Inspect stored bulbs and corms, and sprinkle with water if they appear dry. Discard any that have shriveled or rotted.
20. 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.
21. Inspect indoor plants for pests, taking care to check under leaves, where many prefer to live.
22. Prune broken tree and shrub branches so they don't rip off in windy conditions and damage property or injure people.
23. If you neglected to store clay pots indoors and they've cracked, don't discard them. Break them up and use them to aid soil drainage in spring.
24. When shoveling snow, pile it onto perennial beds as long as you haven’t salted. It’ll add extra, igloo-like insulation.
25. Check bog plants overwintering indoors and discard those that are rotting.
26. If ornamental grasses look unkempt, cut them back. Waiting until March is fine, too.
27. Replenish deer and rodent repellents.
28. After snowfall, gently brush snow from evergreen branches — especially arborvitaes and Leyland cypresses — with a broom to prevent buckling and cracking.
29. Easily eradicate mealy bugs from houseplants by touching them with an alcohol-soaked cotton swab.
30. Repot indoor plants, but don't fertilize until next month.
31. When blooms are faded, deadhead forced amaryllis, but discard paperwhites.