Mid-Atlantic

January, 2009
Regional Report

Clean and Fill Birdfeeders

Here's a gentle nudge to wash out and disinfect, dry, then fill your (hopefully squirrel-proof) birdfeeders. Scrub feeder with soap and water, dip in a one-part bleach, nine-parts water solution. Rinse well and dry thoroughly before filling with a high quality birdseed mix. Poor quality birdseed has fillers such milo that birds don't eat. Black-oil sunflower seed is a popular food for many bird species.

Check Shrubs and Trees for Dead Branches to Remove

With the leaves gone, it's easy to spot broken and/or dead branches in trees and shrubs. Take advantage of warmer winter days to prune off those dead or damaged branches. No need to hurry as you might in spring. Pick one or two shrubs or trees to work on for an hour or so. Take your time. Step back frequently for a fresh look. You'll quickly see a big improvement. Admire your handiwork. Then head indoors for a hot cuppa...

Consider Removing Overgrown, Poorly Placed Shrubs

Do barberry thorns grab your jacket when you round the corner? Are you constantly dodging privet, boxwood or yew branches at the entrance to your home or along the front steps? Maybe you and the space would be better off without that overgrown shrub. I see many landscape shrubs planted decades ago. At maturity, they're often way too large for the area. They've grown but the available space has not. Take a minute and imagine the spot without the shrub. If that's difficult, you could prune the shrub back -- enough to see a big difference. Then prune it more next year, and the year after -- till it's gone. By then, you'll already be imagining a replacement. A new, better repeat azalea, mildew-resistant lilac or dwarf crape myrtle perhaps?

Water Fall-Planted Trees, Shrubs, Roses, Perennials

Though we're not thinking about it, soil does get dry in winter. In above-freezing temperatures, newly planted trees, shrubs, roses, perennials and grasses would do well with occasional long, thorough and deep waterings. They're still adjusting to being planted. Their roots aren't strong or well-established and will easily dry out. So let the hose drip slowly and long enough so soil 2 to 3 inches deep feels wet to the touch.

Organize a Neighborhood Gardeners' Get-Together

It's a stretch... but there is one good thing about the poor economy. Here is an opportunity to expand friendships in concrete ways. How about meeting over dinner to discuss sharing lawn and gardening supplies and equipment? As it's winter, there's time to see which lawn mowers on the block work; which need repair; which are due for recycling. Or to discuss pooling money for a new electric mower to share. Bet I'm not the only one who buys more vegetable and flower seeds than I'll use in one season. I'd be happy to exchange half a pack of zucchini seeds for Asian eggplant seedlings someone else patiently starts. Neighboring gardeners could save by buying a large amount of soilless mix, mulch, soil amendments, organic fertilizer and dividing cost fairly according to amount used. Start thinking like this and you'll likely find lots of ways to share and save. Which means more money left to buy the new fruit tree or that special something you've wanted.

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