Essentials For The Gardening Shed
Tools for the job

Essentials For The Gardening Shed

The right tool can help make any job easier and the garden is no exception. More than 91 million households gardened in 2009, the most ever, according to the National Gardening Association. Gardening is an incredibly enjoyable activity, but if you don’t want to end up sore, blistered or itching, it’s important to be properly prepared before you begin.

Here are some essential items that I keep in my garden shed:

Gardener’s First-Aid Kit – The most important thing in my shed is my first-aid kit for common garden emergencies including sunburn, bug bites, cuts, and poison ivy, oak or sumac. Every gardener I know dreads poison ivy because the itch can last for weeks. A tiny brush against one of these plants can cause a whole lot of itch, but it doesn’t have to with the help of one of my favorite products, Cortaid® Poison Ivy Care Treatment Kit. It can be used to defend against an outbreak, help to prevent spreading and treat an itchy reaction.

Gardening Gloves

While I believe in getting my hands dirty, nothing beats a great pair of high-quality leather gardening gloves. The right gloves can protect hands from thorns, an unexpected bee or spider, sharp twigs or sticks and blistering.

Shovels/Spade & Trowel

A good shovel is the difference between making your garden work easier and giving you a backache. Look for one with a long handle (to take pressure off of your back) and flat ledge, which creates a surface for your foot. A trowel is a must. Find one with a wide, curved blade that fits comfortably in your hand.


Deadheading (picking the dead flowers off of plants) and trimming plants goes on all year long. Look for “bypass” pruners that make a clean cut on the plant without crushing or tearing it.

Wheelbarrows and Carts

Toting things around the garden can become a chore. Save yourself a backache and find a lightweight yet sturdy and steady cart to help with heavy work.

Watering Essentials

A good hose has a 5/8-inch opening, is reinforced with a mesh layer and is kink resistant. It should handle 50 pounds per square inch of water pressure. Cost usually reflects quality, so spend the extra. For areas your hose can’t reach, invest in a sturdy watering can.

With tools like these, gardening will truly be a pleasure, so get out there and “Get Your Hands Dirty”.

Gardening Tools. Nurturing Your Garden
Tools for the job

Gardening Tools. Nurturing Your Garden

However, he or she might collect all the tools they can, but some tools are definitely more useful than the other and which the garden simply cannot do without.

Here are a few gardening tools that will make a definitive difference to gardening efforts.


These gardening implements have a round or pointed blade. They help a gardener to move soil, dig hole or even in the process of planting. You must also try and select a garden shovel that has a flat edge at the top of the blade. Your foot gets a better surface purchase this way.


Weeds and a garden go hand in hand. You can’t have a garden which does not have weeds and they are a fact of gardening life. You can’t just get away from them; but hoes help you get rid of them. You can also use hoes to break up the soil, if needed. Your selection of a garden hoe must be dependant on its strength and hence try going for a rolled steel blade that has been riveted to the handle. Such hoes are more reliable.

Hoes with a smaller blade will enable you to get in between the plants, if necessary, and clear the weeds.


A trowel is a tool that will offer immeasurable help during planting. If you are looking for durability, and most people are, then a steel blade trowel is the one to choose. If you are looking for an easy grip then choose a trowel that has a soft rubber handle. If gardening is your passion, and you plan to spend long hours working in the garden then you would do well to get trowels which are ergonomically designed, which help in taking off the stress off your wrist.


Rakes will help get rid of all the fall leaves from your garden and also enable you to collect all the debris that gets collected in the garden. You can either use a narrow rake or a wide rake. If you use a narrow rake, it’s easier to maneuver around or between the plants, but a wide rake will get rid of the fall leaves easily and quickly. So, its best that you have both types of rakes and here again, choose only those with ergonomic handles.


This is yet another gardening tool that a gardener cannot simply do without. This is because the process of shaping of a plant, their pruning, and deadheading goes on throughout the year. So, if you want a cleaner cut on the plants then you should use pruners. The do not rip or tear the plant.

Typically, there are two types of pruners that you can choose from – the anvil pruners and bypass pruners. A word of caution here; buying pruners can be a costly exercise, so be very careful in your selection.

Garden Forks

If you want to break up the garden soil, then a garden fork is the best bet. Compared to a pitch fork, garden forks are thicker and shorter. Don’t go for ones that have flat tines, but for those who have square tines. You can use a garden fork in place of a spade if it’s of the right size and shape.

Water Cans

A good watering can is a must-have, if you are the proud owner of a garden. A good watering can makes it easier for you to water your plants. It can be easily tilted and can easily be maneuvered and balanced in your hand.

That leads us neatly on to the next area.

Must Have Accessories for Your Next Gardening Project

When it comes to gardening accessories, there are a number of different items that are included. To start a garden and maintain it, it is likely that you will need gardening supplies. To grow plants or food, you will need to have seeds. To help your seeds flourish, you may want to have plant food and other feeding supplies. The gardening tools and supplies that you need will all depend on what type of garden you are interested in developing. Despite the difference in supplies, there are many common accessories that you may wish to have.

The first step in starting a garden is to pick a space. Since your plants, flowers, or food will need sunlight, you will want to select an area that receives an adequate amount of it. This area can either be large or small, depending on the size of your garden. You may also want to make sure that this area is not in the way of your other activities. Developing your garden in a fairly secluded area will help to reduce the risk of destruction.

To get started, you will need to have a number of important gardening tools. These tools should be used to dig a hole for your seeds and to create a smooth ground surface. Popular gardening tools include, but should not be limited to, weeding forks, surface rakes, shovels, and hoes. If you do not already have these tools, you will need to purchase them. Most of these garden tools, along with other gardening accessories, can be purchased online or from most department stores or home improvement stores.

Once you have created a safe gardening area, you will then need to start planting your seeds. Your seeds will all depend on which type of garden you plan on having. Many gardeners choose to have a flower garden, plant garden, or a vegetable garden. It addition to having one or the other, you may also want to incorporate plants, vegetables and flowers all into one. You can easily obtain seeds by visiting your local home improvement store, garden store, or department store. For hard to find seeds, you may need to resort to online shopping.

Depending on the type of flowers, plants, or vegetables you planted, you should begin to see results in a few weeks. Plant food and special soil may help to increase the appearance of your garden. While most gardeners prefer to use plant food, it is optional. In some cases, you may find that your plants, flowers, or vegetables will grow just as well on their own. Plant food and premixed food soils can be purchased for an affordable price at most retail stores.

Gardening is a backyard activity that many enjoy themselves. If you are a parent, you may also want to include your child. Depending on their age, age appropriate gardening tools can be purchased. These tools are similar to most traditional tools, but they tend to be safer. In fact, most play gardening tools are made of plastic and have dull edges. To purchase these gardening supplies for your child, you will want to visit your local retail store or shop online.

Monthly Gardening



The entire month of April is wrapped in spring. With March madness behind us and the merriment of May ahead, we feel the need to stop and appreciate our gardens in April.

Our area’s last listed frost date is April 15th. The IRS has made this easy for us to remember! Sure enough, the date has been accurate in my journal for several years, but it is always close. All was fine until April 17, 2007 when we had, not just a late frost, but a killing winter freeze. I don’t recall experiencing anything like it before.

The month of April is full of tulips, daffodils, Virginia bluebells, Youshino cherry, flowering dogwood, crabapple, candy tuff, azaleas, creeping phlox and more.


If you forced paper-white narcissus indoors over the holidays using a soil based medium, they can be planted outdoors for years of enjoyment. If you forced them in the absence of soil, they are spent; compost them!

I know it drives you crazy to see the fading leaves of the daffodil. Yes, it really is necessary to keep the green as long as possible for next year’s food.


Wait until after the last frost before planting tender annuals such as Impatiens and Petunias.


The Cross Vine trellised over my garden gate and up the side of our house is striking in April. Love, love, love this vine. This is why we put up with a ratty looking vine in the winter or at least, this is why I do. The sticks of Miss Huff Lantana left for architectural interest (or should have for the health of the plant) can probably be cut to the ground now. I usually leave mine until the new growth comes in so I can have a visual to remind me of what will come.

Now is a good time to divide Hostas. There is lots of good advice out there on the proper way to do this. I take the in-situ method; i.e. as the green appears, I take a shovel, split the plant while still in the ground, pull half of it up and move it to its new home. Works for me. But in Helen’s Haven, I no longer grow Hostas, which saddens me greatly. The one area where we can grow them is infested with voles. Trying all the usual tricks, none have worked. But I would not longer grow them there even if I didn’t have voles. This area also too dry. When I re-worked Helen’s Haven into a water-wise design, I was no longer willing to bring water to this area. Such is gardening. The real beauty in gardening is the wealth of plants available to fill any niche one door closes with one door opens. I now have a very nice display of hellebores. Hellebores provide year round greenery, flowers in the late winter (wow), are drought tolerant and poisonous to voles, so they stay clear.


The time to prune azaleas is just after they bloom. In fact, a good rule of thumb is to prune most blooming shrubs right after they bloom. If you wait too long, you will cut off next years bloom.

If you have to tame forsythia, do it now. It can be cut back – as much as you need – and still have some flowers next winter.

If you got winter burn on your gardenia, just cut off the burned ends. Or, take the lazy method, which is what I do. Let the new leaves self prune the dead. The dead leaves will eventually drop off. If you see a lot of yellow leaves, test the soil and remember gardenias like acid soil! However, also remember this is part of the plant’s natural cycle. It looses leaves in the spring and then produces new growth. So be patient.

Now is good time to cut back the red-stemmed dogwood branches. The winter red color is on the new growth.

It is normal to see a large amount of Magnolia leaves shed beginning this month. Some find it messy, but if the Magnolia was left to grow properly, the leaves will fall within the drip line and should be of little consequence. By ‘grow properly’, I mean Magnolias are not meant to be limbedup. In fact helping the branches droop is encouraged. In earlier days, it was common to weigh the lower branches down with rope and bricks. By keeping a ‘skirt’ on the tree, it hides the falling leaves and makes the tree very stately from the ground up. Once the limbs are cut, there is no going back. I have friend in Burtee County. Her sister inherited a pre-civil war home with magnificent Magnolias out front. For whatever reason, she limbed them up. Now the beauty of these magnificent Magnolias has gone with the wind.


Plant herbs after the treat of the season’s final frost. Plant annual herbs such as basil, bi-annulas such as parsley, and perennial herbs such as rosemary, chives, thyme, and mint.

Monthly Gardening



It could be said that March is the month for yellow. I can’t help myself and I gawk at the forsythia and the daffodils. I can’t get enough of them. I also can’t help but notice the difference between pruned forsythia and those left in their natural state. Forsythia look best left natural. If you can’t leave forsythia naturally, needing a tidier garden, than find another shrub that can tolerate pruning and not look unnatural. But the chances are you are growing forsythia because of what it does this month – bloom fantastic long arching stems of beautiful yellow flowers; so let it do what it does best, branch out and beg to be noticed adding to the yellows of spring.

With the arrival of spring, we start wanting to see beautiful gardens. Look for garden tours, events, and symposia. A garden tour is a great way to learn about gardens, plants that do well in your region, and walk away with a thousand ideas while having an enjoyable time. Even if you only walk away with one idea, it is worth it.   My gauge for a successful garden tour is when everybody’s garden was somebody’s favorite.


Don’t kick yourself for not having daffodils blooming in your garden this month. Put in your day planner now to purchase spring blooming bulbs in the summer when the selection is best and plant daffodils in mid fall.  As a reminder, do not cut back the leaves of the daffodils until they have finished. Once they have lain down on the ground, they can be cut back.

Ditto with the tulips. In our area, the Dutch tulips are used as annuals.  But can also be a benefit for those who aren’t keen on untidy bulb foliage.  I think tulips are the most underused bulb. They can be pricey, especially since they have to be replaced each year. That and the little garden critters love them too. I suspect this is why they are so underused. However, they are fantastic. I believe they are worth the money. Bulbs are long lasting and with the vast selection, they can be timed to bloom with the Dogwoods and the Azaleas.

Because I grow Dutch Tulips as annuals, I pull them as soon as the flowers are spent.

For summer blooming plants such as Gladiolus, plant corms now.  Planting every two weeks from now through spring will extend the bloom time.  Select well-shaped, large corms and plant in a sunny, well-drained location, planted no closer than four inches apart, 4 – 6 inches deep.

To get a jump start for a spring display, start caladiums and tuberous begonias inside.  Pot up bulbs with roots down and growth points up.  Keep at room temperature until they are ready to plant outside.  Both are very tender and benefit in waiting a couple weeks past the last frost date.


Pansies are still looking good. We will be able to enjoy them through the end of May, if we want.Most of usually pull them in early May, after the threat of last frost, just in time to put in summer annuals. It also a good time to plant pansies.

Now is a good time to plant alyssum, snapdragon and viola. As well as larkspur and poppies seeds.


If you haven’t already cut back your Liriope, look inside to see if the new growth has emerged. If you see the new growth, it can still be cut back, but  be careful that the new growth is not cut. The longer the new growth, the more difficult this task is. Cutting them back last month would have been ideal, but there may still be time- take a peek before you cut. Otherwise, trim off burnt edges and wait until next year.

My Hellebores are looking very good. Hellebores are one of my favorite plants for winter interest. I like to cut back the old leaves before (or as) the new growth emerges. Also, if you don’t want your Hellebores to spread, cut the flower heads before they release their seeds. Remember too, the Hellebores cross breed readily. So don’t trust the seed of your black hellebore to stay black if they keep company with other colors. Your original will stay black, but any babies will be something else.

Hostas are starting to come up. This is a great time to divide and share with a friend or another location in your garden.

For your daylilies, now is a good time to divide. Daylilies need dividing every 4 years or so to keep them flowering nicely.  They divide easily and happily.  Keep the clumps large, 3 – 5 fans each.  Share with friends or find now homes in your garden. This year’s blooms may suffer, but will recover by next year.  One way to look at it, if they need dividing, they are suffering anyway by not being divided!

Bee balm (Monarda) is sprouting now (and last month too.)  Take this opportunity to transplant and move around in the garden or to give to friends.

Spring is a good time to divide bleeding hearts, garden phlox, hostas, coreopsis, chrysanthemums, ajuga, and Shasta daisies. Transplant to other areas of your gardens, share with a friend, or donate to a plant sale.

Herbaceous peonies will be up soon. I love, love, love Peonies. The blooms of this long living perennial may only last a couple of weeks, but I cannot resist their scent and beauty.

If you haven’t cut back your ornamental grasses yet, you may still have time. Look inside the plant to see if the new growth has emerged. Be careful not to cut the new growth.

If you needed a good excuse to grow Carolina Jessamine, look around and get inspired. They are blooming everywhere – mailboxes, entrances, sides of homes, fences, anywhere you wish to add some local color.

Transplant seedlings of columbine, Lenten rose, purple coneflowers, and bee balm to an appropriate spacing, to move to another part of the garden, or to share with a gardening friend.


Look at those Redbuds. Mine opened up around the middle of the month. Before that it was the Peaches and Cherries.

Coppice American beauty berry.  It helps stimulate growth and control size.

This is the time of year bear-root plants should be planted.  Either purchased as the independent garden center or received from the mail order nursery.  When they arrive, as the name applies, the roots will be bear.  These plants are dormant, without soil or potting mix, their clean roots moistened by damp sphagnum moss or softwood shavings, newspaper or the like.  Depending on the plant, the bear root could have a husky root system, but not leaves yet. or a chunk of roots, in either case, the plant looks nothing like what it will become.   The roots will soon sprout leaves and grow into fine plants.  Be sure to plant as soon as possible.  If the roots dry out, the plant’s health will be compromised.  Bear-root trees and shrubs benefit from extra care before planting.  Soak the roots in a bucket of water for 2 hours or more to help restore moisture.  In fact overnight is fine, but not much longer than that.  When planting, be careful not to plant too deeply.  Locate the soil like on your woody plant or a change or color, or a thickened area where the stem meets the roots.  Use these markers as guidelines.  Leave the crown (where stems sprout) at soil line when planting.

There is sill time to plant trees and shrubs.



Prune fig trees.  Fertilize fig and blueberries with a well balanced fertilizer (10-10-10).


Roses are starting to put out new growth. We are ending the optimum time to plant bare root roses. Now is a good time to add a slow release organic fertilizer. Roses are heavy feeders. We will get a good couple of months before we see black spot or Japanese Beetles. The Lady Banks rose will be blooming soon. I love this Rose. It may only bloom once a year, but it virtually maintenance free, free flowing, and stunning. I have two; one on the South side of my house trellising up a Chinese Windmill Palm and another growing up a Maple tree, again, on the South side (of the property and the tree.)


As the new growth is emerging, cut back the winter burned leaves of St. John’s-Wort.

March is a great time to direct sow parsley.  Your Tiger Swallowtail larvae will love you for it!



March is typically a wet month. Unless there was a winter drought, watering is not necessary. Even in a drought, given the cooler temperatures, watering perennials once every 4 weeks and annuals every 2 weeks is all that is necessary. Tress and shrubs will not likely need watering. However, your specific conditions will dictate what is necessary.


Your bulbs will appreciate an application of a complete fertilizer as the green appears.

Pansies and violas appreciate a slow-release application now.

Now is still a good time to lay mulch. This gives you enough time to allow gardens to have a nice chill, killing off insects and such, while still protecting our plants. Also your perennials are just emerging and laying mulch is much easier before the plants are up. I like to use composted leaf mulch, but most of my clients still like triple shredded hardwood mulch.  It looks best right after it is laid. Oh for our gardens to look as good as it looks right after mulch is applied. For my clients who use the hardwood mulches, I recommend lightly raking the mulch every quarter to remove the larger pieces. It is these pieces that bleach out in the sun like old bones in a desert. Racking them up and using elsewhere in the garden helps extend to look of mulch. Of course, if you use composted leaf mulch you will not be off the maintenance hook. There will be plenty of bits of trash to pick up as the mulch is consumed.

Spot weed your beds and grass. I hand pluck out my weeds. If you do this before they get out of hand, they can be managed. Also in my beds, I use a hoe and just cut the weeds below the surface of the soil.



For your Bluebirds have your nesting boxes ready. They are looking to nest!

For your birds, if you haven’t done so already, now is a good time clean out your nesting boxes.  Removing old nests and debris from birdhouses gives a new family a fresh start.  It is also a good idea to scrub your birdbaths.

Here is something to think about:

Nature’s first green is gold.

Her hardest hue to hold.

Her early leaf’s a flower;

But only so an hour.

Then leaf subsides to leaf.

So Eden sank to grief,

So dawn goes down to day.

Nothing gold can stay.

– Robert Frost

Monthly Gardening



Before the garden season kicks into full gear, evaluate your garden with regards to sustainability. Are you doing all that you can do to reduce water, pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizer use? Are you composting? Are you harvesting rain water? Are you planting the right plant in the right place? Do you mulch? Are you using organic and/or mechanical means for pesticide and herbicides control, and are you using organic fertilizers? Let this be the year you consider doing all that you can do. Let this be the year you begin.


Now is a good time to fertilize the flowering bulbs. A general 10-10-10 is good, but there are also products made especially for flowering bulbs, such as Holland brand products.

If you see green from your bulbs starting to emerge, don’t panic. While there is still winter ahead, the leaves do fine; they are very hardy.


Pinch spent blooms off pansies to maintain their flower show through spring.


February is a good time to cut back Liriope. The key is not to cut it too late and risk cutting off the new growth. The damage will not recover and can look tattered.  Also, the solid green variety spreads. If your original design had a pattern and if you want to keep that pattern (usually an alternate X pattern), then after the cut back, dig out the Liriope that has spread.

You can still plant peonies.  Fall would have been idea, but they can be planed now as well.  When planting, make sure the top of the crown is just above the soil line.  Peonies need the cold to set the buds.  Fertilize now before the spring growth so that it will be readily available when the plant is.

February is the time to fertilize your flowering ornamentals.  My beds get most of their nutrients from decaying mulch, but often times, from the result of an soil test, I will an organic fertilizer.

A warm winter day is perfect for preparing a new or existing garden bed.  For a new site, mark the area of the new bed and top dress several layers of newspaper and top dress with organic matter such as composted leaf mulch.   For existing beds, work the ground with a garden fork to loosen the soil and mix in the organic matter.  In doing so,  you will improve soil fertility and drainage.

If you vines have gotten out of hand, late winter is a good time to tame them.  Cut back wisteria, Virginia creeper, ivy, and Japanese honeysuckle

Cut back ornamental grasses.  Also, when to fertilize your grass. Check the perennials, particularly those planted last fall, to be sure they didn’t heave from alternate freezing thawing.


If you root pruned trees or shrubs last fall, now is a good time to transplant.

For your enjoyment indoors, have spring come early by bringing in branches or purchase already forced branches or bulbs.

As long as the ground isn’t frozen, it is still a good time to plant trees and shrubs. Prepare the planting hole with ample mulch. Also cover the root ball with mulch being careful not to bring the mulch right up to the trunk.

If you haven’t cut your butterfly bushes, do so now. Doing so controls the height, increases the flower show since butterfly bushes flower on new growth, but also protects the plant in the event of heavy wind and ice storms coating the branches too weak to support the ice.

Late winter is an ideal time to prune most shrubs, so the timing couldn’t be better. Take advantage of the downtime in the garden and prune. Careful though, learn to prune before you ruin the natural shape of your shrubs.

Add lime to your fig trees.  Our area tends to be acidic, and figs prefer a much sweeter soil.  Get a soil test to determine how much to apply.  Experience with my so suggests adding about 2 cups of dolomitic lime CaMg(CO


For your roses, now is a great time to plant bare root roses. When you receive your bare root rose, unwrap the rose and soak in water for 2-8 hours, then plant immediately or they will dry out. Dig a hole 12-18 deep and 24 wide. Amend the soil by adding bone meal, manure, and soil conditioner. In the center of the hole, make a cone from the soil and spread the roots over the cone. Back-fill the hole with soil and tamp lightly, watering in. This helps to remove air pockets. Cover the bush completely with mulch. The union should not be showing! Consider disease-resistant shrub types such as “Carefree Beauty’ and ‘Knock Out’.

Now is a good time to do the final pruning of last season’s growth to prepare for this year’s growth – prune hybrid teas, grandiflora and floribunda roses.



February is a good time to plant onions, asparagus, and carrots.  If you didn’t plant your snow peas in January, you still have time now, but time is running out.


Remember to water new plantings in the absence of rain.


Even though you raked leaves, mowed them to reduce their size and then put them back on your garden or compost pile, there is still probably leaf litter around blowing in from the neighbors, trees, etc. Take a walk around your garden to collect leaves, old fruits, twigs, seeds, pods – all litter and add to the compost pile. Doing this on a pretty day, gives you a great excuse to be out of doors.

February is a great time to mulch. The ground has had a chance to freeze, killing off fungus and some pests, and the deciduous plants have left room for an easy application. In my book, nothing compares to a fresh application of mulch. I have now converted to total composted leaf mulch. For a long time, I still used triple shredded mulch in landscaped areas with leaf mulch in my garden beds. But I love the color of this mulch and it adds nutrients to the soil.

Mulch also helps prevent heaving.  Heaving is when newly planted plants (planted the previous fall) are subjected to freezing then thawing causing the plant to up root. It is OK to adjust these plants in place and they should be fine. It might be a good idea to add some additional mulch to reduce the likelihood of the ground freezing.

Stay on top of those winter weeds.


Are you noticing knots forming on the tips of your dogwood branches?  It’s likely caused by a tiny insect called a club-gall midge.  They lays eggs in the tips of dogwood branches in late spring.  As the larvae develop, they cause club-shaped galls, about a half-inch long to form.  Be sure to prune these out and rid them as they develop during the summer.

Once your winter-blooming Camellias (Camellia japonica) finish blooming; be sure to rake the fallen flower heads to discourage Camellia petal blight.


Don’t forget to enjoy your birds. Putting feeders out where you can enjoy  the birds from the warmth of indoors, benefits you and the birds.

Birds need a water supply in the winter, if you can invest in a bird bath heater, you won’t be disappointed.

Monthly Gardening


January is a good time to look back on your gardening year and to plan ahead. Walk around your garden, shoot some photos, and make a wish list of your garden’s hopes and dreams.

It is always a good idea to photograph your garden each month as a photo journal of what is blooming when. But also, looking at your garden through the lens is telling. What you see and what others see are often times  two different things. We all have our priorities. What you may pass by everyday and don’t notice  because you got use to looking at it, will show up and be noticed in print, and by others.

It’s no different when seeing oneself in a photograph. Most of us don’t like what we see; we start picking it apart.  Do you like what you see in your garden photographs?  So while it is a good idea to walk around your garden to jot down ideas and list what needs to be done, it is a better idea to evaluate what you see from photographs.

We gardeners tend to plan our gardens to spring and summer showings.  Make your winter garden just as rewarding by planting for winter interest – flowers, color, fruit, textures, and scent.  Take a good look around. January is a good time to look back on your gardening year. Are there things you would like to change? Make a list, keep it handy, and add to it, as necessary, and check off the tasks once completed – its a good feeling.

Another thing to do at the first of the year is to conduct a soil test. Consider this your yearly reminder.


If you will begin to see bulb foliage begin to emerge. It’s OK.  The leaves are hardy and if harmed, they will grow more.  Keep bulbs mulched so they aren’t lifted by heaving resulting from repeated freeze and thaw.

As the tips of your daffodils emerge, add a general 10-10-10 fertilizers or a fertilizer especially designed for bulbs, such as Holland Bulb brand.

If you didn’t fertilize your bulbs with a slow release fertilizer last fall, it is still OK to do.  Apply about a teaspoon per square foot of bed after the foliage emerges.


To keep your pansies happy, apply an organic fertilizer such as bone meal or root simulator fertilizer designed specifically for pansies following the label directions. Re-apply every 4 – 6 weeks.


Semi-evergreen ferns look great in the winter garden.  There are some great ones to choose from including Christmas, Holly, and Autumn.

Late January and February is a good time to dig and divide liriope and mondo grass.  Now is also a good time to cut back liriope before the new growth emerges.  If done before new growth emerges, a lawnmower or string-tirmmer can make short work of this annual task.


The most common Camellias grown in our area are Camellia sasanqua and Camellia japonicas.  C. sasanquas bloom from September to January and tend to have a mass of small flowers (as compared to C. japonicas) blooming all at one time.  C. japonicas bloom from September to March and tend to have a fewer flowers bloom at a time.  Camellias like acid soil with some organic matter in semi-shady conditions.  Camellia sasanquas are also tolerant of some sun.

Figs do fine in many soil types, but perform best in slightly alkaline soil. To aid in this, given our areas natural acid tendencies, add powered dolomite limestone (CaCo3) to the fig bushes.


With black spot so prevalent in our area, rack and clean underneath the rose bushes and discard.  this will help to reduce the amount of disease going into the next growing season.

Check that the crown of the rose bush is still covered. Often times, winter winds can blow mulch away.


Lavender foliage remains a silver-green color during the winter months creating nice interest in the winter months.


Now is the time to plant English (green) peas.  A common mistake is to plant too late in the season.  English peas are very hardy and withstand sub-freezing temperatures.

Indoors or in a cold frame, sow seed of cool-season vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage.


Plants in the winter still need water. We usually get a gracious plenty of rain in the winter and in the spring, but in times of drought, remember a winter drought can be as severe as a summer one. In fact, a plant planted in the fall that was not watered sufficiently in the winter and dies in the summer is often times blamed as a summer problem when it was more likely caused in the winter. Not that this is much consolation for the dead plant. But it does remind us that plants need water even in the winter.

Pansies have a shallow root system – make sure they get watered weekly, if not by nature, then by you.

For your Plumber…leave the hoses attached to your faucets! Your plumber will love you for it. If this is not the kind of love you seek, remove the hoses from your faucets so they don’t freeze and bust.

Stay on top of your weeding by handpicking your weeds from the grass and beds on a routine basis. Dig up wild onions and garlic as they emerge.  If possible, walk my gardens daily and note what needs to be done, creating a to-do list. Then weekly, work through the list!


Spray for your aphids, scale and mites with a dormant oil. This will help to reduce the number of pest. Wait until the temperature is at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or warmer for at least 24 hours.

Look for and remove bagworm pouches hanging in junipers or other narrow-leaf plants.  Fire is an effective way to destroy bagworms.  If not removed, they will begin the cycle again during the next growing season.

Camellias (particularly Camellia japonica) really start to shine in January. To discourage Camellia petal blight, remember to rake spent flowers that have fallen underneath the bushes.


Recycle your Christmas tree to the garden for the birds. Fill with “ornaments” of pine cones covered with peanut butter rolled in birdseed and add some dried cranberries for color and good eats. The birds with thank you and you can reap the rewards of watching them enjoy.

Adding hollies to the landscape brightens up garden with color and food for the wildlife.