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Snow Removal, Cleaning Bird Feeders
& Other January Gardening Tips
By Charlie Nardozzi, Horticulturist and
Leonard Perry, UVM Extension Horticulturist
Gently removing snow from tree and shrub branches, keeping bird feeders
clean, and checking house plants for pests are some of the gardening activities
for this month.
Brush Away Snow
When tree and shrub branches bend under the weight of a new snowfall, use a
broom to gently brush off the snow. Don't try to remove ice or you might break
the branch. It's possible to save a branch that partially splits from the main trunk
if you tie it in place and use long screws (coming from each direction, if
necessary) to secure it. If done right away, the tree may callous over the wound
and heal itself next season, and not split further.
Clean Bird Feeders
Birds deserve clean food surfaces as much as we do. Every few weeks bring the
feeders inside and wash them with soap and water into which a little bleach has
been added (1 part bleach to 9 parts water). Rinse thoroughly. If you have a
heated bird bath, keep it scrubbed and cleaned regularly as well. I keep an old
brush handy, just for this purpose whenever I refill the bath.
House Plant Care
Aphids and spider mites may be multiplying like crazy amidst your
houseplants, especially if they are grouped close together. Isolate each plant and
inspect it closely, with a magnifying glass if necessary. Treat these pests by
holding the plant and pot upside down and submerging the foliage in a sink full
of soapy water (wrap aluminum foil over the soil to keep it from falling out). In
severe cases, spray the plant with insecticidal soap.
Look on houseplants where the leaves join the stems for the white masses of
mealybugs. Rub them off with a cotton swab dipped in alcohol. If you see
brown lumps on stems and leaves, these are likely scale insects. They are hard
to control, as even rubbing them off they seem to reappear in a few weeks, so
check plants often.
If that potted lavender, geranium, bougainvillea or similar tender plant that
you're overwintering inside has sent out spindly new shoots, keep trimming it
back until the increased sunlight can support sturdier growth.
Refresh Your Gardening Journal
If you keep any kind of gardening journal, dig it out now and refresh your
memory about what worked and what didn't work last year. Read notes you
took at garden visits and gardening workshops to give you ideas of plants and
techniques you may want to try this year. If you don't have a gardening journal,
just designate a small notebook as a place to collect your thoughts and wish
lists. I simply have a folder for each year that I tuck notes in during the year,
(such as ideas for next year’s vegetable garden, and what varieties I want to try),
as well as plant lists, receipts (to know what I bought), and maps of what I
planted and where.
Place Plant Seed Orders Early
If you want to have the best selection of plants ready to go into the ground when
you're ready to plant, place plant orders early. The selection dwindles the
longer you wait, especially for new and unusual varieties. Some very tiny seeds
such as begonias need to be sown in winter. Others, such as the new All-
America winning coneflower PowWow Wild Berry, need to be sown the end of
January in order to bloom the first year from seed.