Happy New Year Gardening

A little maintenace goes a long way for the coming spring.

by Charlie Thigpen


Each January we start a new gardening year. What will the coming seasons bring? Last year a bitter, cold winter, extreme summer heat and a parching autumn drought all acted as the evil forces of nature to harm our landscapes. Yet most plants survived and some even thrived. A few plants did expire, but that’s part of gardening and dealing with the elements. It’s time to search for new plants that can be used in this year’s garden. While we anticipate the opportunities, there is much to do.

Any New Projects?


In the sleepy gray of winter we gardeners begin plotting, planning, sketching and dreaming. This year make your gardening dreams become a reality. Remember you can dream big, but when it comes to installing a new landscape and maintaining it, you should  start small. Focus on what you really want to do this year. If it’s your front yard, start there. If you have a large area to plant, focus on breaking it into manageable sections.  Don’t try to do too much, or you’ll be overwhelmed in August when temperatures soar and rains cease.

January Maintenance


Almost all the leaves have fallen so it’s time to put out mulch. A thick layer of pine straw or shredded pine bark will make your landscape look neat and help insulate plants. Mulch also creates a fluffy mat that discourages weeds from encroaching on your plants.  Use pine straw on slopes where washing might occur and bark on level areas.


Cut back woody perennials that have turned crunchy and brown such as ornamental grasses, daylilies, daisies, lantana and ferns. Take them back to about 3 or 4–inches so you can see where they’re located if you need to plant around them.  It’s not too late to set out perennials. Many garden centers have them at closeout prices after the holiday season.


Check on any plants that you set out in the fall suchas pansies, violas or snapdragons. Pansies and violas need to have any spent blooms and seedpods removed. If they’ve become leggy, they may be pinched back and shaped. Sub-freezing temperature can often burn the tops of snapdragons. Clip off any browned tops and you will promote low branching so plants will be nice and full for spring. Flowering cabbage, kale, chard and red mustard leaves are often damaged by cold. Groom and remove injured foliage from these leafy plants.


Cut and Enjoy a Little Spring


Many plants are just as impatient as we are. They long for spring and some produce early buds and blooms on those few unseasonably warm, sunny January days. Look for flowers on camellias, quince, Daphne and daffodils in the landscape that can be clipped and brought into your home. A handful of fresh cut flowers from the yard can be uplifting and inspire us to get ready for a happy new gardening year.

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