January Gardening Calendar
January is a quiet month for gardeners in the Southern Great Lakes Region. The flurry of the holiday season has passed. Long nights and short days bring out the urge in some to nestle in and wait out the worst of winter weather. Others relish the season with outdoor activities: Ice hockey, ice fishing, skiing, and tobogganing are among the activities that residents of the region take pleasure in. For indoor types, college and high school basketball rules. For armchair quarterbacks, there are the playoffs leading up to the big Superbowl weekend.
While not much is happening outside, there are still gardening and maintenance chores that can and need to be tackled this time of the year:
1. Trim the branches off your Christmas tree and use the boughs for mulch. Or, you can set the tree outside and add fruits and suet balls and other goodies for the birds and other wildlife to enjoy.
2. Avoid walking on lawns when there is snowpack to prevent compaction and snow mold later in the season.
3. Avoid the use of salt-based products on sidewalks and drives. Sand or cat litter provides good traction on slick spots without damage to lawn, ornamentals, or concrete.
4. Inspect tree trunks for rodent and winter damage. If you haven’t already done so, time’s a-wastin’ to add tree wrap and mesh guards to prevent girdling and other damage by rabbits and rodents.
5. Cleanly prune any storm-damaged branches from trees and shrubs.
6. Inspect flowerbeds during the January thaw for signs of frost heave. Place the plants back into the ground, and when the ground refreezes, apply mulch.
7. Check the cold frame for signs of trouble. On warm, sunny days, vent the cold frame.
8. If the winter is not particularly snowy, check plants such as rhododendrons and other broadleaf evergreens for signs of dehydration. If the temperatures are above freezing and these plants are dry, water them. Also, reapply an anti-desiccant to your evergreens to prevent excessive moisture loss. Do this on a day above 40 degrees.
9. Gently remove freshly fallen snow from evergreens to prevent limbs from breaking.
10. Start bringing in a few pots of forced bulbs for a touch of spring.
11. Remove snow dams from eaves to prevent damage to your eaves and roof.
12. Start ordering early from mail order sources for best selection.
13. Check seed-starting supplies. Replace old fluorescent or grow lights before the seed starting season begins.
14. On warm days, take a look at the bare bones of your garden structure. See where plants can be placed, which plants might need to be moved, and write down your thoughts and ideas for future reference when the planting season begins.
15. Check houseplants for heat stress. Maintain adequate humidity and light levels. Water appropriately.
16. Houseplants, especially tropicals, might suffer cold injury if they are placed too close to window panes during the winter. Move them back a few inches, and make sure their leaves are not touching the glass.
17. Continue to feed the birds! Think about adding a birdbath heater to the birdbath so birds can find a source of fresh water to drink.
18. Inspect summer tubers, corms, and bulbs. If they look like they are drying, spritz them with a little water. If they are in a medium such as sand or peat, moisten that as well. Discard any diseased or dead bulbs, etc.
19. Can’t afford a trip to Florida or Hawaii? Find out where you can take a day trip to a conservatory. Many large and medium sized cities in the region have indoor botanical gardens that offer a nice escape for those of us who need to see some green and smell the organic scents of growing plants and soil.