|(From the Collinsville
Welcome to the first edition of the Green Thumb Corner! We hope you enjoy reading and get inspired from time to time with monthly gardening todo's and tips. Spring isn't the only season for solace in the garden. Cold weather may sometimes bring a blanket of the blues, but shake off those winter excuses and stay in an active frame of mind! Whether you're inside or out, gardening can lift your spirits and soothe your senses--even in January.
January is an ideal time to be outside. It's the best time for planting all types of fruit trees. Order apple, pear, peach, and plum trees in bare-root form, which is usually cheaper than container-grown plants. The trees come in plastic packages filled with sphagnum moss. To plant, unwrap the roots, and soak them overnight in water. Cut off any broken roots. Dig a hole 2 to 3 feet wide, spread out the roots, and cover with soil. But be careful not to plant too deeply. The graft union, marked by the crook in the trunk near the base, should remain I to 2 inches above the surface of the soil.
Watering. Dry winter conditions can seriously dehydrate plants. When snow or rain has not fallen for several weeks and the ground is dry 3 to 4 inches beneath the surface (use a trowel to check), set out a sprinkler to soak all plantings thoroughly. Irrigate when the temperature is above freezing. Water at mid-day when the surface of the soil is not frozen solid.
Prune trees, shrubs. Winter is the ideal time to prune--you can easily see the branch structure of leafless deciduous trees and shrubs. Cut out dead, diseased, crossed, and closely parallel branches. Don't prune lilacs and other early-spring bloomers because you could be cutting off this year's flowers. Hire a tree service to prune big shade trees.
Check stored bulbs. Examine bulbs, corms, and tubers for shriveling and rot. If bulbs are shriveling, sprinkle on a little water to rehydrate. Discard any that show decay (except dahlia tubers--you can cut the bad spots out of these, dust with sulfur, and store apart from the rest).
Check that gardening tools and equipment are in good working order--sharpen and oil pruners and shears, repair mowers, edgers and sprayers.
Control overwintering insects on deciduous trees or shrubs with dormant oil sprays applied when the temperature is above 40 degrees F in late fall and winter. Do not use "dormant" oils on evergreens.
A product containing glyphosate plus a postemergent broadleaf herbicide can be used on dormant bermuda in January or February when temperatures are above 50 degrees F for winter weed control.
Provide water for birds. Wild birds overwintering in your garden need clean water for drinking and bathing when natural water sources freeze solid. If you have a birdbath, you can prevent the water from freezing with a heater. Or use a shallow plastic basin in the winter, When water in the basin freezes, pour in a kettle of hot water to melt the surface ice. Rinse the basin out daily and refill with clean water.
Working with your soil is another useful January chore. Whether you are turning it over or tilling, it's an excellent time to prepare the soil.* Test your soil with a kit from your county Extension service. Turn fall leaves into your beds so they will be composted by planting time. Tilling brings insects to the surface, where they will be food for hungry birds or victims of winter temperatures.
Please feed the birds and other small creatures which may not be able to find food due to snow on the ground or other causes. For only a few dollars you can feed an enormous number of birds. If there is snow on the ground and you don't have a feeder, a simple piece of plywood, a scrap of carpet or even cardboard will create a very good feeding area. It's easy to clean it off turn it over if it happens to get covered by a fresh snowfall. You don't have to be a bird watcher to enjoy the feeling that you get when you've helped out one of God's creatures.
Quote for January: