Western Mountains and High Plains
Check Landscape Plants
Landscape plants and lawns that are planted on slopes and in south and west exposures may need water. Use the twin-eye or "frog-eye" sprinkler to give plants a good, deep drink of water. Set the sprinklers early in the day when temperatures are above 40 degrees. Let the water run for 20 to 30 minutes in each area, then move to achieve good overlap.
Move Living Tree Outdoors
If you decorated a living Christmas tree indoors, it's important to move the tree outdoors, but do so gradually. Place the tree in an unheated garage or porch to begin with, then move to full sun after a week or two. Keep the rootball moist, and don't plant outdoors until temperatures are above freezing. After planting, mulch the soil with a 3- to 4-inch layer of compost or shredded cedar mulch. Rinse the needles and thoroughly soak the soil. Don't forget to water throughout the winter, especially when the weather is dry and windy.
Shop for Bare-Root Plants
This is particularly a good time to shop for bare-root roses, fruit trees, and other nursery stock via mail-order sources. You will often find varieties that are not available locally, and planting bare-root plants in early spring is one of the most economical ways to add new plant materials to your garden. Plants will develop a strong root system that will adapt to our native soils.
Buy Fresh Flower Bouquets
To keep cut flowers fresher longer, you can use materials that you may already have in your kitchen. A homemade cut flower preservative that will keep flowers looking fresh and extend their life can be made by mixing one part lemon-lime soda (not the diet kind) with three parts water. For each quart of this homemade mixture, add 1/4 teaspoon of household bleach. The sugars in the soda will help the buds open and last longer, the acid improves water flow through the stems, and the bleach prevents the growth of bacteria and fungus.
Dream with Gardening Catalogs
Now that the whirlwind of holiday activities has subsided, the calmer days of winter have arrived. It's a good time to catch up on some of those delayed gardening tasks, such as garden cleanup and planning this year's landscape. On snowy, cold days, thumb through seed and nursery catalogs and plan your spring garden. The 2006 All-America selection winners will be available by mail order and at local garden centers this spring.