Jan 11th, 2011

January Home Gardening Opportunities

by Janet Woody, Librarian, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

This is the first in a monthly series of  things  to do in your home garden each month of the year. You might think of them as chores … but why not think of them as opportunities to get some fresh air and make your surroundings look better.

This list is not meant to be exhaustive;  just enough to cover the basics.

• Take advantage of warmer January days to walk around the yard to observe and enjoy. Many perennials are showing signs of new growth already. Look for perennials that may have heaved from the ground during freezing temperatures. Press them down and cover with about 2 inches of mulch. Use small branches of your Christmas tree as protective cover over beds. There is still plenty of rough weather to come.

• Take your lawnmower in for service if needed. It’s best to start the mowing season with a sharp blade.

• Avoid wearing paths on the dormant grass to the trash can or wood pile as the grass may not grow back. This is especially true when the ground is muddy and soggy.  Make a detour if you can.

• If you haven’t already done so, remove dead annuals and add them to the compost pile. Clean up the dead foliage from daylilies.  By now they should pull away from the plant very easily by hand or with a rake. Cut back Actaea racemosa (also called Cimicifuga or bugbane). Cut Heliopsis helianthoides (false sunflower) to the ground.  Cut  Iris sibirica (Siberian iris) to ground.

Caryopteris: some call it a sub-shrub, others a perennial.  Prune back to 18 inches.

• Stir the compost pile and add some coffee grounds. If you have a covered composter, add water if needed to help the decomposition process.

• Most plants don’t need *fertilizer now; however, Lavandula angustifolia (English lavender) and Epimedium (Barrenwort) could use a small dose of a well-balanced fertilizer (such as Osmocote 4-month slow-release).

• January is a good time to look around your yard and think about new plantings that will improve privacy, reduce street noise, or add new depth and beauty to your landscape.  You won’t want to plant new most new shrubs and trees ’til March.

• Look at shrubs and trees that may need pruning — but you won’t want to do that until February.  Get a good book on pruning to guide in this essential endeavor or take a class on pruning here at the Garden.  In our library catalog you can search for the word prune or pruning in the any word field to find a list of books on pruning.

• Speaking of pruning, make sure your hand-pruning shears, hedge shears, loppers, pruners, and saws are sharp and ready to use in February. And maybe your chainsaw and pole pruner, depending on your landscape needs. A good pruning book will have illustrations of these tools and instructions for their safe operation.

• If you are tired of spending a lot of money on annuals, think about adding more perennials and using annuals as accent plants. Get a couple of books on perennials and pick out some that you like and decide where in your yard they’ll be happy. Make this the year you go perennial! Our library has dozens of perennials books located in call number SB 434. Take a look at our perennial bibliography here.

The Hort Helpline is here to help with any of your garden and plant questions: 262-9887 x 332

Additional Resources:
–*Month-to-Month perennial and shrub maintenance chart for the mid-Atlantic region prepared by District II, National Capital Area Garden Clubs, Inc. (SB450.96.M76 2008)
–Any volume of the Southern Living Garden Annual series.  Each volume has a monthly checklist plus lots of good ideas for garden projects. (SB 321.5.S65 2002)
Pruning: how to guide for gardeners (SB125.S84 1983).

The pruning book (SB135 .R28 2010).

About Janet Woody

I am the librarian at Lewis Ginter and like to talk and read about plants. I also enjoying researching Lewis Ginter and our founder Grace Arents. Visit me in the library and we'll talk about plants, or history, or some other fun topic.

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