There is a laundry list of gardening activities to accomplish as the snow flies.
This list is certainly not exhaustive, but gives a sense of my seasonal duties, along with some action items for the home garden. Some of the action items on my list include:
Clean up those hand tools – here are some easy tips for caring for your tools. Honestly, this is one of those simple things we need to do more often than a couple of times a year.
Start by washing the dirt off your tools with a garden hose, by scrubbing with a wire brush. Dip the tools in a diluted solution of any household bleach. Turpentine can be used for any items that might be covered in sap, and vinegar can be used to soak items coasted in rust.
Give wooden handles a light rubbing with linseed oil. Not only does a thorough cleaning mean sterile tools, it also ensures your tools will last longer. Just think of it as protecting your investment.
Sharpening – Hoes, shears, scissors, knives, loppers, prunes, and shovels all need an occasional sharpening. Wipe the blades down with WD-40 or another lubricant.
Most blades can be filed with a 10” flat mill file, purchased at most hardware stores. File at a 20 to 45-degree angle for most tools; it’s usually easiest to follow the original bevel. For items that need a finer edge (pruners or shears), use a whetstone to finish the edge.
Storing Tools – Even when you know you’ll be using your tools the next day, don’t leave them out in the elements. After cleaning them, return used items to the shed, where they will be kept dry and are likely to remain rust-free.
A great way to store small spades and trowels is by keeping them in a pot filled with sand that’s been soaked with motor oil. This helps keep the metal well-conditioned.
Your larger tools will do best hanging in a dry, ventilated shed. A pegboard will keep everything organized and easy to access. Keep the tools you frequently use within arm’s reach, and place less-utilized items as you wish.
Tune up mechanical tools – you may want to begin taking your two- and four-cycle engine equipment to the mechanic. He can give them the typical check over, replacing and updating anything the engine needs. Spring time is crunch time for most small engine mechanics, so start now to beat the rush.
Shake off that snow – Do not let significant amounts of heavy snow build up on branches. Some evergreens are especially prone to this. Cover tall upright junipers with burlap to prevent winter burn and heavy snow loads, which don’t usually occur in our area.
Watch for plant rocking – Newly-planted trees and shrubs, not yet rooted into their new soil homes, are vulnerable to coming loose as winter gales buffet them. As the root ball comes loose, you will notice a hole opening on its edge.
Burn those weeds – If you get time, try to get ahead of the winter annual weeds waiting patiently for a warmer day to spring up. Springtime is busy, so the more that helps get ahead of the flush of weeds, the better.
Prune trees and shrubs – There are a number of very informative links one can follow to learn what to prune when. It is my yearly goal to touch every tree and shrub at least once a year, making pruning decisions on each.
Draw up those plans – Like most gardeners, I spend my winter getting cozy, dreaming, scheming and ordering plants. I just can’t wait to get those annual seed catalogs in January and pore over them to see what’s new that I can put into my garden.
One of my favorite plants in my garden, and one that blooms in winter, is the so-called Christmas rose, actually a hellebore (Helleborus niger). For areas of the country where winter flowers are a rarity, hellebores are a delight.
These long-lived perennials love shade or dappled sun and moist, organic soil; there are thousands of cultivars in a range of colors from white and cream to pink, rose, burgundy and light green. Mine are light green and I also have a beautiful pink variety. They are perfect for our area and bloom year after year.
Another beauty is winter jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum) which blooms in January,
making it a great candidate for creating a mid-winter color splash on retaining walls and banks.
Winterberry bursts with bright red berries that add cheery color to the evergreen shrubs. Clip some to bring inside for holiday cheer, but beware the sharp leaves.
There are many more winter flowering beauties that you can find in our area. There are always plants to research and plans to develop for the landscaping in your yard.
I hope you can find inspiration in this article to get you through until spring.
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