New year brings new duties in your garden
by Ronella Stager, Columnist
Jan 02, 2013 | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Now that the new year is upon us, it seems that some kind of resolution to live better, eat healthier or be kinder is in order, or maybe most gardeners want to have a bigger and better garden. This old gardener never made resolutions but did make big plans at the beginning of each year. I wore out all the new flower catalogs trying to fit all the wonderful plants, which I wanted to order, into my budget. I also have always planned to have neater, cleaner flower beds.

Yet there are a few things which need to be done in January. If you have some tulip bulbs which you didn’t get around to planting the last of November, never fear. If you can catch a day in January when the soil is not frozen and isn’t too wet to dig, you can still plant tulips bulbs. Be sure to plant them with the pointy side up. Otherwise they would grow to China. Just kidding. I never dreamed that anyone would plant them upside down until I had some readers tell me they did and the things bloomed but the bloom was terribly ugly. If you plant tulips in January, put some bulb plant food in the hole.

If you get the urge to do some digging in your garden on some warm day, try turning over the vegetable garden. This exposes the eggs of insects to the effects of the sun, wind, freezing and bird feeding. This gets rid of many insects which would have hatched when you plant a garden. It also kills many weed seeds. The exercise of digging or plowing makes you feel you have accomplished something and gives you a jump ahead of some of your pests. And you have also given our winter birds the protein they need.

Now is also a good time to plant a holly tree. If you would like one with dark green leaves all winter and also with red berries, check with your nurseryman to get the right one. I would strongly suggest you check for height so that you can allow for its growth when you buy one. A big holly can overwhelm your yard. I love to see one planted as a specimen plant so the family can see and appreciate it.

If you grow buddleas, prune them this month. Many growers prune them down to two inches. Remember that this butterfly bush blooms on new growth this spring so you aren’t cutting off the blooms for summer. Cutting them back makes them fuller and bushier. Some growers of this lovely plant have told me they are afraid to prune them too much for fear it will kill them. The truth is that Kentucky is pretty far North for this plant and you will lose some because of the colder winters but it won’t be because of pruning.

If you grow tomatoes, start saving egg shells to make a ring around each tomato plant to discourage cutworms. Did you also know that alyssum planted near your tomato plants attracts the insects which pollinate your tomato plants and they will give you bigger crops. On the other hand, marigolds planted near your tomato plants will repel insects. Which do you do?

It is also time to start saving banana peels. Just throw them in a plastic bag and keep them in the freezer for spring to use around many perennials. They are especially good for roses. If a banana gets too ripe to eat, throw the whole thing in the bag.

Spray your evergreens now to keep down red spiders as well as other insects. Check with your local garden store for the best spray.

Speaking of spraying, January is a good time to get out your sprayers and check them over. If there is any residue in the bottom, be very careful that it is not weed killer. Wash your sprayers thoroughly.

There is so much planning that starts in January that it is hard to pick and choose. One very valuable insect in your garden is the praying mantis. They are ugly as sin but so very valuable in keeping down insect pests. I have always been lucky to have them in my flower beds. The reason is probably that I seldom use insect spray and never spray indiscriminately all over the garden. You might want to order some from a good garden catalog. Ladybugs, also beneficial, may all fly to the neighbor’s but the praying mantis will stay in your garden and lay their eggs. I only saw their egg nest once and was fascinated to see it. They are very large insects so they have large egg nests, well hidden.

If you are planning to start annual seeds in flats, get your seeds now and start getting the flats ready because the traditional time for sowing those plants that have a long germination period is February 22 and don’t ask me why. These are lobelia, ageratum, petunia, penstemon, scabosia and a few others.

Please feel free to call me at 270-522-3632 with questions or suggestions.
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