Winter doesn’t have to be dead time for gardens

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 2, 2011

While many things may look dead and dormant, that doesn’t mean gardening has stopped.

Adams County Extension Service Director David Carter said now is the time to make sure plants are protected from winter weather that is sure to happen soon.

“Right now everyone’s biggest concern is freeze and its effect on their plants,” he said. “Now is the time to mulch plants and mulch them heavily.”

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Mulching with bark mulch or pine straw insulates the roots of the plants to keep them warm and protected when the temperatures drop in January and February, Carter said. It has an aesthetic appeal as well.

“It makes everything look a little better, too, when so much stuff is dormant,” he said.

Carter also said January and February are good times to start pruning plants that flower in the fall to get them ready for their next bloom cycle, but he warned against cutting back anything that will bloom in the spring.

“If you prune something that blooms in the spring right now, you will just cut off the blooms for the season,” he said.

Dick Thompson, owner of Live Oak Nursery and Garden Center, said it is also important to make sure plants are watered regularly.

“It is hard to believe but cold weather is actually more dehydrating for plants that hot weather,” he said.

Thompson said pruning dormant trees and plants can be done now, including pruning fruit trees and large trees.

“Now is the time to deal with large trees, because the sap level is down this time of year,” he said.

But pruning and mulching aren’t the only things that can be done. Spring bulbs can also be put in the ground now.

Thompson said pre-chilled tulips, snapdragons, hyacinth and other spring flowers grown from bulbs should be planted soon.

“Fall and winter is a good time to plant because the root system grows all winter with no stress from really dry weather,” he said. “The root system will be well established when warmer weather comes in.”

For crape myrtles, the best time to prune is in late January or February, Carter said. He said it can be done now, but to be careful and wait as long as possible.

“Anytime you prune something, you encourage new growth,” he said. “You don’t want something trying to grow when the cold weather is on its way.”

While there is plenty to do in yards and gardens this time of year, Carter said it is also a good time to take a break until spring.

“A lot of people don’t like to do a lot of yard work and this is the time for them to just wait, but for those folks who do want to be out doing work, there is plenty of stuff they can find to do,” he said.