In The Winter Garden
Its January 2022! Happy New Year! Right now, the winter winds are blowing, the snow is falling and all the while a miracle waits under the ice and snow. The miracle of spring. It never gets old, does it?! And so, we gardeners wait out this long prairie winter knowing that in the not-so-distant future we can begin to garden once more.
But until then……… there are things to do and ponder in January.
Snow is a great insulator. If our snow cover is deep, move some of it onto perennial beds, vegetable garden areas or newly planted tree and shrub roots. Do not pile it up around the trunks of trees- just around the root zone. Brush off as much snow as you can from evergreen branches. Snow is also heavy and can cause branches to break and tear.
While you are outside, take the time to assess your yard now that you can see its basic structure. Determine what needs to be taken away and what needs to be added. This is the time to prioritize and plan.
This will no doubt lead you to the internet where you can order new seed catalogues and google what is new in gardening for 2022. Keep in mind our hardiness zone is 3. Each spring season there are new plant introductions; trees, shrubs, annuals, perennials, vegetables, and vines- many of them hardy to zone 3.
I still enjoy looking at and reading gardening magazines. Many of the spring editions feature new plants for the upcoming spring season. They are full of inspiring ideas and great advice on color combinations, container recipes, landscape designs and gardening in general.
Trees and shrubs can be pruned at any time during winter dormancy (as weather permits). Do not prune early spring bloomers such as lilacs, forsythia, and double flowering plums. They can be pruned in spring right after flowering. Elm trees can be pruned in late winter as well. Keep in mind that in Saskatchewan you cannot prune elms between April 1 and August 31.
If you are handy, consider creating some raised bed frames for your garden in the garage or workshop. The soil in raised beds warms up quicker than ground soil so you can seed parts of the garden earlier in the spring. You can also create wood planters, trellis, bird, bat and bee houses.
Please don’t forget to feed our feathered friends. Birds need an incredible amount of energy to get them through the winter. If possible, invest in a birdbath heater so drinking water is readily available.
Check on your stored bulbs, corms, and tubers. Throw out any that are completely dried out or show signs of rot.
Be careful not to overwater your indoor tropical plants. If you have plants that have been in the same pot for a few years add a tiny pinch of all purpose tropical plant food to the water. A tiny bit of nutrition will certainly help a plant that used up the pot nutrients a long time ago. Consider investing in a humidifier to add extra humidity to your home. Otherwise stand your plant pots on pebble filled trays. Add water to the pebble trays as needed.
Check your indoor plants for uninvited guests. Check the top and undersides of the leaves, stems and under the rims of the pots. Mealy bugs like to congregate under the pot rims as well as on the leaves!
Dust and/or wipe off the leaves of indoor plants once a month in winter. Do not use leaf shine products as some brands will clog the stomata (breathing pores) of the leaves. For leaves with hairy surfaces such as African Violets, dust them carefully with a very soft artist brush.
Prepare your seed starting and potting supplies. Do a little research and find out what soil is best for seeding and what soil amendments you will need to add to the garden. If you are recycling pots, trays and containers make sure you wash them well with soap and water. This is also a good time to clean your pruners and saw blades.
Plan ahead and purchase outdoor potting soil so that you will be ready to go when you purchase your plants. Invest in a top-quality soil. I have learned this lesson the hard way. I now use ProMix BX which is an excellent all-purpose soil. It comes in a 3.8 cubic foot bale. This is a lot of soil for some gardeners but share the cost with a friend! You will not be sorry! Good soil is always the key to garden success.
And above all, take a breather and enjoy the winter. Yes, enjoy the winter! During Covid people have begun to revisit hobbies and interests from long ago and that includes gardening. Take a photography class in anticipation of garden photos or throw a clay pot or six to use in the spring. Once again, Happy New Year and all the best to you and yours in 2022!