“The ball has dropped and people are celebrating. January has come and with it the hope of a better year. Forward we look to the new horizon.” January (Will Pratt).
Another Christmas season has come and gone on the calendar. The bright lights of December have paid their dues and the new year is upon us, beckoning with multiple chores and activities. The month of January can be promising or it can be very intimidating and boring. You decide how you want your January to be! As you continue to enjoy the cooler weather and search for things to do, reserve some time for spring planning.
January is the month for planning your landscape activities for the spring. Research plant and seed catalogs for those plants and seeds that attract your attention and can thrive in this area. Give some thought to how you plan to make design changes in your landscape and place these thoughts on paper. Develop necessary drawings needed to accommodate your needs and wants. It is easier to erase on paper than undergoing several re-plant exercises on site to find the right location for your choices.
Check the operating status of all your power equipment and tools to insure their readiness for the coming spring. Your landscape checklist this month should include the following items.
Azaleas: If you have to prune your azaleas each year to control their size, consider transplanting them to less restricted areas. By moving the shrubs away from the foundation of the house or back away from a walkway or passageway, they can grow into a more natural form and will require less maintenance. Remember that the proper pruning time for azaleas is after blooming and before bud set for the next season.
If you are planting new plants, space them according to their average height and spread. Avoid a hodgepodge of colors and group plants of a single color for more emphasis and color depth. Arrange color groups in a design which offers complimentary qualities, greater accent to the site, effective emphasis and color contrast without smorgasbord results.
Bulbs: January is the last call for planting crocus, hyacinths, Dutch iris, and daffodils. Those bulbs that you are now planting should have completed a pre-cooling time frame of six to eight weeks for best results.
Camellias: To reduce the incidence of camellia petal blight, keep faded flowers removed and rake fallen blossoms away from the plants and properly dispose. While plants are in bloom, water regularly. If scale insects are detected on the underside of the leaves, spray with a recommended insecticide. Always read label directions before any purchase or application.
Hardy Annuals: This is the time to sow seeds of larkspur and sweet peas in a well-prepared soil. If the weather continues to be mild, establish new pansy beds with nursery-grown stock. Other plants to look for at the nursery include calendulas, Canterburybell, sweet William, and cottage pinks. All of these require full sun and soil that is rich in organic matter. Scout the nursery or garden center for other plants that get your attention and determine if they can be used effectively on your site.
Herbs: It is not too early to think about an herb garden. Decide which plants you want to grow this spring, and start the seeds in pots or flats, or simply buy seedlings at a later time. Among the easiest to grow from seeds are basil, caraway, dill, lavender, parsley, summer savory and thyme. A sunny window is an excellent location for your flats. Plants started now will be ready for transplanting outdoors in March and April.
Indoor-Outdoor Plants: If you have been overwintering impatiens, coleus, chrysanthemums, bedding begonias, and others indoors, it is time to root cuttings so they will be ready to transplant in the garden as soon as danger of frost is past. Make the cuttings at about 3- to 4-inches long and insert into a rooting medium of equal parts of peat moss and perlite. Keep the medium moist but not wet.
Pampus Grass: Prune pampus grass to within 6 inches of the ground at this time. If you wait until spring to prune pampus grass, you will risk damaging new leaves as they are emerging. And, if you neglect pruning altogether, your plants will look ragged next year because of the older dead foliage that is intertwined within the canopy.
Pansies: Established beds of pansies will benefit from application of complete fertilizer this month. Apply a 5-10-10 or similar fertilizer at a rate of ½ cup per square yard of planting bed. Make any placement and arrangement changes insuring that the plants are being established on 4-inch centers.
Planting: When planting ornamental trees and shrubs this winter, remember that soil preparation can mean the difference between success and failure. Dig large planting holes (at least twice as wide and 1½ times in depth as the planting ball or root stock. Keep watered during this season, especially on days when stress potentials are increased.
Shade Gardening: When choosing a location for new shrubs and trees, consider that a current sunny spot in the garden may be an area of deep shade later in the season. The sun’s path changes and deciduous trees leaf out which impact the amount of light received at a given spot or location. However, many ornamentals like shade including azaleas, camellias, dogwoods, sourwoods, cape jasmines (gardenias), spireas, mahonias, and leucothoes.
Watering: Drought can be even more damaging in winter than in summer. Since the plants are already under stress from cooler temperatures, the lack of proper moisture creates additional stress. Irrigate when rainfall is scarce, and mulch plants with pine straw or similar material to conserve soil moisture and protect the plants from the cold.
Weed Trees: A weed is a plant growing where it is not wanted, or out of place. Some trees are weed trees including cherry laurels, mimosas, boxelders, willow oaks, sweet gums, and redbuds. These frequently propagate from seeds at random throughout the landscape beds. Remove these young plants before they reach any measurable height to insure ease of removal and to prevent your spouse from developing a likening for said plants. Maintain only your cultivated and planned species for best results.
Don’t forget to feed and water the birds. They need food and water too! May your January planning efforts bring forth beautiful spring and summer colors, as well as a landscape with sustainability and function.
“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” 2 Corinthians 5:17.