By Brent Gray
This is a good time to get your garden equipment ready for the busy season ahead. Give your lawnmower its annual maintenance; such as sharpening or replacing the blade. Remove rust from tools by rubbing them with steel wool dipped in machine or motor oil. Linseed oil will protect wooden handles from rot. Sharpen your spade and pruning tools to make garden tasks easier. Check your sprayer, and replace any old or worn parts.
Trees and Shrubs
The winter months are best for transplanting shrubs and small trees. First, have your new planting hole ready so you can replant immediately. Then dig up the plants carefully to minimize damage to the root systems. If many roots are lost, prune away a corresponding amount of top growth. Only the lateral branches should be pruned from trees with a single leader (main vertical branch). Water thoroughly immediately after replanting. Plants should receive at least 1 inch of water per week until they are re-established.
Watch for signs of spider mites on your indoor plants. Their growth is favored by the hot, dry air of heated homes. Yellow, stippled leaves are your clue to turn the leaf over. If you find tiny white webs on the back, your plants are infested with spider mites. The first step is to give them a shower, paying particular attention to the backs of the leaves. Let the leaves dry, and spray with insecticidal soap—you might want to do this outdoors. Repeat this treatment weekly for three to four weeks to kill newly hatched mites.
Plants such as roses and fruit trees are usually grafted. You can easily find the graft union. It is the swollen part of the stem. In later years, you’ll be able to see a difference in the color or pattern of the bark. When planting, be sure to set the graft union 1 or 2 inches above the level of the soil. Prune off any shoots that develop below the graft union.
Examine the plants in the garden for cold damage. Most should have survived the cold snap but may have lost leaf tissue. If the central bud has signs of new leaves, prune the damaged tissue. Be sure to remove covers when temperatures remain above freezing. All covers, even “clear” plastic, diminish the amount of light hitting the plants leaves. Covers also maintain high humidity levels which encourage disease organism growth
Now is the time to start monitoring soil temperatures and watching weather forecasts. Some crops do well when planted in January when the daytime highs are in the sixties. . Irish potatoes can be planted when soil temperatures are in the fifties if the soil has drained where the top five or six inches is not wet. Potato leaves are not freeze tolerant, but planting early allows the roots to be well established when the temperatures are optimal for top growth. Potato seed pieces contain enough carbohydrate to initiate several sets of leaves if the first ones are killed by cold temperatures. Notice where your garden center stores the seed potatoes. Seed potatoes should be protected during freeze events.
Apply a small amount of fertilizer to strawberries during the warm periods. The recent rain may have leached the nutrients below the root zone. Do not apply fertilizer if temperatures in our area remain below sixty five and the days are overcast.