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David Daehnke
United States

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Gardening Tips for January and February



* English ivies should have plenty of light but not too much heat at this time of year, so keep them off of radiators or other appliances.

* Poinsettias often drop their leaves when the flowers begin to fade, which is usually a few weeks after Christmas. This indicates the plant is going into its natural resting period.

* Do not water African violets from overhead. It is better to water a tray underneath the plant because overhead watering may contribute to crown rot of the plant. After 1/2 hour, remove any excess water that may remain.

* Hyacinths will flower on short stems unless the bud is made to develop in the dark. As soon as the young leaves start to unfold, and the buds appear, cover the pot with a cornucopia of paper or and inverted pot. When they spike has reached the desired height, remove and enjoy.

* When there is a warm spell and the ground is not frozen, make sure you water foundation plantings that may have gone into Winter on the dry side due to the overhang of your house.

* Snow should not remain on evergreen hedges because when it gets wet and heavy during a thaw, it may break branches and leave the plant unattractive. Removal can be done lightly with a broom by starting from the inner part of the plant and pulling outwards.

* Branches of Christmas trees can be used for a mulch over roses, bulb beds, rock gardens and perennials. The boughs make a light, airy mulch which is most desirable.

* The dormant pruning of ornamental trees and shrubs can be done at this time. Take a close look at the branching structure of the plant, and always remember to step back and look at the plant after each cut to see what has been removed and where the next cut should be.

* Old Christmas trees can also be a good shelter for birds during the Winter, so don’t dispose of them so quickly.

* Plan to read a few gardening books this Winter as well as all of those catalogs that have come in the mail over the past two weeks. There is plenty to learn, even for the most seasoned gardener.

* Begin your gardening almanac or notebook at this time of year. Note temperatures, rainfall and begin to write down your plans for the new growingseason. This will be an invaluable resource for you in the coming years.



* Keep cacti and succulents in the house in a bright, sunny window. Poor drainage in the pots and over watering may encourage diseases.

* Keep in mind that the leaves of plants breathe, and for that reason the broader kinds such as rubber plants and dracaena should be wiped with a soft, damp cloth.

* Flowering branches of various Spring blooming shrubs and trees like forsythias, apples and ornamental quinces may be cut now and wrapped in wet paper towels and stored in your basement for three to four days. Then you can bring them into your living room and enjoy the blooms. The nearer to Spring you are, the easier they are to force. Branches of pussy willow can also be forced readily.

* In the event of mild weather, make the rounds of your garden beds and gently press back into place any perennials heaved out by the frost.

* House plants require more attention now. Be sure that the air in your home (aka the Gobi Desert) is sufficiently moist; give them plenty of light; water them when needed, not “once per week”; wash them frequently to remove dust and insects; start to give them a balanced fertilizer to bring them out of the Winter doldrums. On extremely cold nights, remember to pull the plants away from windows where the temperature is much lower than the inside temperature.

* Mummified fruits and cankered branches should be cut from fruit trees and discarded into the garbage (NOT your compost pile!) to prevent the spread of disease spores.

* This is a good time to prune grapevines and fruit trees, but not if the weather is extremely cold.

* Tramp down the snow around tree trunks so that mice may not make runs to the trunks and feed on the bark.

* Most people think that no harm is done by crossing the lawn when the ground is frozen. However, if a beaten path is made in Winter, strips will be worn out beyond repair, and reseeding as well as aerating will be necessary in Spring.

* Make sure that you have an ample supply of bird seed in the feeders, especially when the ground becomes snow covered. Also, suet, peanut butter and similar foods will help keep the birds warm.

If you have a particular question you would like the Gardening Guru to answer, e-mail me at, or check to see if your question has already been asked on the Question and Answer Message Board. Good Luck!


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