Garden Clippings tips of the month

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January is a month to:

  • Assess your yard for areas that need winter interest. Plants with evergreen foliage, berries or interesting bark are great ways to add to the winter landscape. Exfoliating bark such as that of paperbark maple and river birch provides rich tones in the landscape. Witchhazel provides late winter or early spring interest with interesting crinkled flowers.
  • Be mindful during snow removal. Take care when piling snow to not injure plants by pushing snow onto or piling it up on branches. Also keep an eye on where salt-laden runoff moves. Salt can remain in the soil until spring and impact plants after winter is over. Use markers to outline beds along driveways to avoid accidental damage from plows or shovels. Do not try to remove ice or shake snow from plants as branches are brittle and may break easily. Gently remove heavy snow to avoid breaking branches, but light snow can remain on plants.
  • Protect the bark of young trees. Rodent chewing can be problematic in winter. Voles and rabbits chew on thin barked trees and shrubs during winter. Damage can often be observed at the snow line. Trunks can be protected by making cages with hardware cloth or chicken wire. Keep in mind that the openings should be small to exclude voles.
  • Prepare your seed order. Winter is a great time to start preparing for the upcoming gardening season. Place you seed order now while the selection is still good.
  • Take care of houseplants. Reduce watering and hold off on fertilizing. Pay attention to light levels, providing supplemental light if necessary. Avoid temperature extremes, keeping plants away from heaters or areas of drafts. Monitor for insects and disease. Increase humidity if possible.
  • Maintain garden tools. Sharpen and clean pruners, spades and mower blades.
  • Care for indoor bulbs and stored bulbs and tubers. If you want to plant indoor bulbs or keep them for next season, let the leaves continue to grow and don’t trim back foliage until it has turned yellow. Keep an eye on stored bulbs and tubers. Check for signs of drying such as shriveling but also be sure that bulbs don’t have too much moisture which results in mold or rot. For dry bulbs, try spritzing with water and placing them into a plastic bag with dampened potting soil. If mold or rot is an issue, increase air circulation or place bulbs and tubers in a paper bag.

by Mandy Bayer, UMass Extension Assistant Professor of Landscape Horticulture

See the full January edition of Garden Clippings at

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