Collinsville, Oklahoma
Jan. 22, 2007
Garden Club Corner
Monthly Tips
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Copyright 2007 -- Collinsville, Oklahoma
(From the Collinsville Garden Club)

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.

Fireplace ashes should be saved to use a fertilizer for your Iris and other alkaline soil plants.

Sow hardy perennials. Seeds of most hardy perennials, including butterfly weed, columbine, liatris, and penstemon, require a period of chilling to germinate. Start seeds now in soil-filled pots and place them outdoors out of direct sun. Keep the pots moist, and whenever snow is available pile it on the soil in pots. After six weeks of chilling, bring pots into a greenhouse or set them on a sunny windowsill to sprout. When seedlings have two sets of true leaves, transplant them into individual containers. Continue growing them indoors until spring, then set out in the garden. Start pepper seeds anytime--they need 8-10 weeks for germination. Keep soil between 70 and 80 degrees and water with warm water.

Don't forget your house plants! Dust on the foliage can clog the leaf pores, so clean them up a little with a damp cloth, or a quick shower under the tap. Actively growing plants will benefit from a shot of liquid plant food. On very cold nights, it is a good time to close the curtains or blinds between the window and your house plants. Make certain that your plants have sufficient humidity, by setting them on a tray filled with clean pebbles, and a little water, or by simply setting a cup of water nearby.
As a general rule, do not feed your houseplants as often during the winter months for this is their resting period. Begin feeding them more regularly in late February with a good quality indoor plant food.

Check houseplants that have leaves that are turning yellow and brown. Lower leaves that curl up and fall off may be too warm, too dry, or the plant may not be getting enough water.

Use this month to check your houseplants: divide and re-pot any pot-bound plants. Prune judiciously to create a compact, attractive specimen.

Keep holiday poinsettias in a sunny, cool location with high humidity.

Remove aphids from houseplants with a mixture of equal parts rubbing alcohol and water and add a drop of dishwashing detergent. Apply this to troubled plants with a soft brush.

It's not to early to begin to think of a strategy for new spring plantings. You might want to create a small map of your garden, and use it as a guide for ordering plants and seeds from the catalogs which will be arriving in the mail soon.

Quote for January:
What grows in the garden, so lovely and rare?
Roses and Dahlias and people grow there. --Unknown

The next meeting for the Collinsville Garden Club will be February 8, 2007 at the Library at 7pm. Please join us! For more information call 402-9265 or to submit a garden question, email