Tackle Carpentry Projects
Search gardening Web sites, books, and magazines for carpentry projects that can be done indoors this winter. Consider cold frames, trellises, a work bench, garden seating, or other projects that will expand your gardening experiences or just be fun. Also, consider setting up a fluorescent light unit for starting seeds indoors. Use one warm white and one cool white fluorescent tube. Make the unit adjustable so the light can be kept 4 to 6 inches above the plants as they grow.
Add Winter Wonders
Notice the plants that are striking in the winter landscape and make plans to add them to your garden this year. The berries of winterberry holly (Ilex verticillata), are striking in the landscape. Shrubs with bright twigs are another good addition, such as red- or yellow-twig dogwood. Shrubs and small trees with interesting winter silhouettes include Harry Lauder's walking stick (Corylus avellana 'Contorta'), hardy orange (Poncirus trifoliata 'Flying Dragon'), and corkscrew willow (Salix matsudana 'Tortuosa').
Care for Trees and Shrubs
Prune fruiting, flowering, and shade trees and shrubs, removing diseased, damaged, and criss-crossing branches. If you decided to prune spring-flowering plants, remember that you will be removing this year's flowers; these are better pruned immediately after flowering. The exception is if you want to cut some branches for forcing into bloom indoors. To control pests, apply a dormant spray when temperatures are above freezing and the weather is dry and not windy.
Plan the Vegetable Garden
Draw a master plan for the vegetable garden, being sure to rotate crop locations each year in order to prevent disease problems. Focus on growing the crops that your family most enjoys, but be sure to experiment with a few new crops. Plan on planting successive sowings to keep crops producing throughout the summer. Try to determine how much of each crop you will use, rather than overplanting some crops and letting them go to waste.
Hollies respond well to organic fertilizers, which should be applied when the ground is frozen. Every three years, spread an inch or so of chicken manure under holly plants, extending from about 1 foot out from the trunk to 1-1/2 feet beyond the limb spread. Follow in mid-March with a low-nitrogen fertilizer, such as 4-12-4. If chicken manure is not available, apply cottonseed meal in mid-March at the rate of 5 pounds for a 6-foot tree. Water in well. You also could add chopped tobacco stems at the rate of 5 pounds per foot of height.