January Garden Tasks 2016

What a difference 10 months make! Last time I wrote, I was bemoaning the lack of rain–and now we are heading into a week that has four storms forecasted. You may not get into the garden this week, but I’m sure there will be a couple of breaks to get some pruning done this month. If not this month, then the next!

During the rainy days you can dream about your garden, make plans, and purchase bare root plants and seeds. Think about all the possibilities!

In the ornamental garden:

  • Prune deciduous trees, shrubs and vines. Remove dead wood, crossing or touching branches and anything that looks awkward aesthetically. Japanese maples can be sensitive, so do an exploratory cut and if it “bleeds” sap, wait a few weeks.
  • Prune summer-blooming perennials like salvias, penstemons, Coreopsis, black-eyed susans. I usually can tell when a perennial is ready to be pruned by the presentation of new growth on the lower third of plant, or from the base.
  • Prune Hybrid Tea roses. Cut back canes by one third. Always cut above a swelling bud that is facing outward, away from center of plant. Remove dead wood and suckers. I also like to remove one to three of the oldest canes if there are plenty of newer canes. Old canes are thicker in diameter, typically thornier and have become woody. Clean up leaves under the plant.
  • Prune climbing roses. Remove twiggy growth and awkward or weak-looking shoots. Prune the rest of the branches to three or four buds. If you are a patient and neat type you’ll want to remove the dead wood for a cleaner, less dense shrub.
  • Frost watch. If frost is predicted, cover frost-sensitive plants like citrus and Bougainvillea. If plants are not in a protected spot, are young and/or have suffered frost damage before, think about covering with a frost blanket, old sheet, burlap or paper. It’s best if the material doesn’t touch leaves–try propping it up with stakes. Remove cover during the day if you can. Or try a string of electric lights (non-LED): it will look festive and keep the plant warm.
  • Purchase bare-root plants like fruit trees, strawberries and roses from nurseries and mail-order companies. Bare-root form is less expensive than in a pot. Get them into the ground asap. Shop early for best selection.
  • Rake up leaves from surfaces (soil, hardscape and lawn) and remove leaves from the top and inside of plants. If leaves are not diseased and you have a bin, they may be composted on site.
  • Pull up weeds before they flower and set seed. I try to pull weeds once a week for 15 to 30 minutes… it’s less overwhelming and you won’t get a backache! Take a reprieve from weeding if the soil is really wet… best not to step on wet soil. I’ve recently become a fan of the scuttle hoe (aka hula hoe)… this is a great tool to use on very small weed seedlings. You can stand on your garden path and scuttle those weeds without stepping on wet soil.


Wet Weeds Welcome Winter Weather

In the edible garden:

  • Prune fruit trees. Remove dead wood, crossing or touching branches and anything that looks awkward or deformed. Height reduction cuts are best done in June.
  • Spray dormant, deciduous fruit trees and berries with dormant oil spray. The oil protects plants from insects and their eggs by smothering them. It’s not necessary to spray if you have healthy plants but it can protect against future infestations. Be sure to clean up any leaves and fruit on plants and soil surface.
  • Spray nectarines and peaches. Prune trees first then spray with copper sulfate to prevent peach leaf curl. Makes sure to spray all over the branches and trunk for best results. I haven’t found anything less toxic that works but I’d love to.
  • Harvest citrus when ripe. Pick up any fruit off soil.
  • Purchase seeds for your summer garden. I have a tendency to stick with the basics but experiments can be fun. I always get sungold tomatoes, romano beans and lemon cucumber seeds… they don’t disappoint! We like Seeds of Change or Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds for their selections, but there are so many places to buy organic seeds now. Typically you won’t need the whole seed packet, so consider sharing seeds with a gardening pal. Or germinate the whole pack and share your starts with neighbors and friends.


…And as always, if you have questions, ask Friend+Sweet!

- ebfriend