Western Mountains and High Plains
Tidy the Perennial Garden
As weather permits, cut dried perennial foliage to the ground,in spring with a few exceptions. Leave Russian sage, creeping verbena, artemisia, and salvia standing until growth resumes on last year's stems. Then prune just above the emerging foliage. Leave ornamental grasses standing for winter interest, then cut back to new growth in spring. If the evergreen foliage of Lenten rose is tattered from winter winds, remove the blemished foliage to the ground; new leaves will return in spring.
Clean and Sharpen Garden Tools
Tune up your lawn mower, tiller, and other motorized equipment. Sharpen the mower blades, shovels, and hoes. To protect wooden handles, wipe with linseed oil. If the wood is weathered, lightly sand before applying the oil. Replace broken or weak handles. It's a good time to take inventory of your tools and make a list of new tools you'd like to add or need to replace.
Prune Shrubs and Trees
Remove broken and dead branches from woody plants. Prune out any criss-crossing and crossover branches that compete for sunlight and impede air circulation. Selectively prune fruit trees to open up the canopy and remove older, less vigorous wood. The goal is to allow the plant to grow in its natural form with discreet pruning techniques. But except for removing dead or broken branches, wait to prune spring-blooming shrubs like spirea, forsythia, lilac, and weigela until after they finish blooming in the spring.
Patrol Landscape for Problems
Take time once or twice a week to walk around the landscape and look for overwintering insect pests and the beginning of disease problems. Get down to the plant's level for inspection, as most problems start on the bottom leaves and branches and work their way upward. It usually takes less aggressive treatment to control problems when you spot them early. Remove and discard diseased leaves, stems, and fallen fruit.
Check newly acquired houseplants for insect pests and diseases. Spider mites cause fine webbing on stems and leaves and multiply rapidly in the warm conditions of your home. An easy way to prevent a severe invasion is to wash plant leaves, top and bottom, with tepid soapy water. Then rinse with clear water. Use a biodegradable liquid hand soap that is gentle on your hands and plant foliage. If signs of powdery mildew are present, gently remove infected leaves.