Upper South

January, 2011
Regional Report

Attend a Flower Show or Garden Lecture

When all about you is snow, ice, and freezing temperatures, find a spring garden show or lecture to attend. Even if your local garden show leans more toward home improvement than gardening, there are usually some gardens set up with blooming flowers. Botanical gardens, plant societies, and other groups may offer their own versions as well as speakers or all-day garden seminars. Any of these are great for chasing away winter doldrums and getting yourself inspired to have the best garden ever this year.

Clean Birdfeeders Regularly

Watching birds at feeders is one of winter's signature pleasures. To ensure the health of the birds coming to your feeders, the Audubon Society recommends cleaning bird feeders once or twice a month to prevent the spread of diseases between birds. Empty the feeder, wash with soapy water, rinse first with plain water, then rinse with a 10 percent bleach solution (one part bleach to nine parts water). Finally, rinse with plain water again. Dry thoroughly before refilling. While cleaning the feeders, rake or sweep up any uneaten hulls on the ground.

Re-Apply Anti-Desiccant Sprays

Winter burn, or desiccation, is a dehydration of the plant due to water loss from the leaves through transpiration. Broad-leaved evergreens, such as holly, rhododendron, laurel, magnolia, and boxwood, are most susceptible. An easy way to avoid this form of winter damage is with the use of an anti-desiccant spray applied first in the fall and then again during a winter thaw. It may seem like we're not to get any warm-up periods this winter, but they will occur. Anti-desiccant sprays are available at garden centers.

Gather Seed-Starting Supplies

Make an inventory of seed-starting supplies you already have, such as trays, pots, seed-starting soil, lights, heat mat, and so forth. Decide what additional supplies would make starting your own transplants more successful, and make a list. Visit garden centers to buy and check off items. Refrain, however, from starting seeds too early. For most plants, count back eight weeks from your average last-frost date to begin sowing. The exceptions are leeks and onions, which can be started about twelve weeks before the last-frost date.

Prune Trees and Shrubs

Whenever you start to get cabin fever, consider heading out to the garden to do some pruning of both ornamental and fruiting trees and shrubs while they are still dormant. The main goal with ornamental plants is to remove dead, damaged, or diseased wood and to shape the plants. Fruit plants have specific requirements, so get information from websites or books. Your local Cooperative Extension Service office may also be able to provide information on correct fruit tree pruning practices for your state.

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