Hopefully, all gardeners put their flower beds in good order before winter, but if not, then that is something that has to be done first. All leaves and debris have to be raked until the beds are clean. Then all dead tops of perennials must be cut to the ground. All annuals that are still standing, dead tops and roots, must be pulled up. Hopefully you will know the difference. That is why it’s important to pull up those annuals at the end of summer.
Sometime during February it is very helpful to aerate the perennial beds by putting that trusty fork into the soil and rock it just a bit. Do that all over the beds. It is a very helpful start to a healthy soil.
Down in the basement or out in a garden shed, you probably have two or three sprayers that need to be washed thoroughly to get out any residue from last summer. It’s extremely important to have your sprayers marked as to which is used for weed and grass killer and which for insecticide. Even a little dried up weed killer can kill plants when the sprayer is filled with insecticide. So be sure to clearly mark your sprayers after washing them. A really good sprayer may need to have some part or parts replaced and now is the time to do that. The hoses usually don’t last more than a year without being replaced.
Hopefully you have already ordered seeds, but if not, that is a must at this time. You might find some of the seeds you want in a garden center. I always found that I needed to go through the better seed company catalogs to find the newer or better seeds for my use.
Saving all those seed catalogs is a marvelous way to find information as well as pick the seeds you want. You may want to order the little peat pots for starting seeds or any number of other interesting additions to your orders.
This is the time to plan a small vegetable garden. You might be surprised how many plants you can get into a very small area. You can always find room for a few tomato plants, a few green pepper plants, radishes, green onions and certainly some salad greens. To have a successful vegetable garden in a small space, you need to use additives such as some rotted manure, compost and some rotted leaves left from last fall. As you use the salad greens, onions and radishes, you can plant other things in their place. You need full sun and a nearby water source and you are in business.
While you are planning a small vegetable garden or a new perennial bed, or just enlarging an existing bed, get out your sharp shovel and turn over the soil. That will do wonders when spring finally gets here. This column has often given the advantages of turning the soil during cold weather but one more time won’t hurt. This gets rid of a lot of insect eggs and weed seeds and softens the soil.
One thing that many of us gardeners neglect is sharpening our tools. It sure makes spring work easier if you sharpen all shovels, hoes, shears and loppers now while you have the time to do a thorough job of it. I would suggest that you invest a bit of money and buy an electric grinder. It sure makes the work easier and gets the job done in short order. Also, you will be more likely to keep the garden tools sharp if you have your own grinder.
Too many gardeners neglect to stake their flowers, both perennials and annuals. Then a hard rain knocks them down. You can buy bamboo stakes, which last a long time, in a garden center or you can make your own from scrap material from a building site. You can even buy green twine to tie the plants to the stakes. Especially helpful is a wire circle that you can buy that encircles peonies and keeps them from falling down when the flowers are heavy and a hard rain blows them over. You can buy tomato plant stakes, which also work very well, or you can make your own.
Do you have an unsightly area around a tree where nothing will grow in that soil? I have the answer for you. A friend sent me a picture of her solution. She planted pots of shade loving plants and set them all around under the tree. It really made a lovely area. She had mostly hostas in all sizes and colors, mostly green, of course.
Please feel free to call me at 270-522-3632 with questions or suggestions.