Most of us ring in the New Year with resolutions, plans for self-betterment, and home improvement projects. Your lawn and garden can follow suit. Take steps now to ensure your New Year’s resolution of having a beautiful landscape will actually happen this year!
When the weather cooperates, you can tackle plenty of gardening chores in January. Add the following projects to your to-do list for a beautiful garden once the weather warms up in a few months.
Prune Trees and Shrubs
Winter – when deciduous trees and shrubs are dormant – is the best time for pruning. (Evergreens recover best when pruned during the growing season.) Wait for a relatively warm, sunny day between mid-November and mid-March, grab your pruners, and head outside to assess your plants. Then, follow this general advice when pruning any deciduous plant:
- Safety first: Wear gloves, long sleeves, and protective eyewear to prune safely.
- Remove undesirable branches: Look for egg masses that suggest insect problems, or unusual swelling or open lesions that point to disease. Prune these branches away to help prevent insect and disease damage in the spring. Then, regardless of where they’re located on the plant, remove dead or unnatural-looking branches that cross or rub against one another.
- Thin the canopy: Remove some of the branches that contribute to the dense canopy to improve air circulation and minimize fungal diseases. Never remove more than 25% of a plant’s canopy in a single season.
- Prune properly: Take your time and work with a second person who can direct your pruning from the ground. Prune with the goal of keeping the tree or shrub balanced and symmetrical. To avoid dense sucker growth, dieback, and disease, prune back to a branch or bud rather than leaving stubs. When removing a limb from the main trunk, leave a natural collar so the wood can heal properly.
Plants Seeds Indoors for an Early Start
Growing annuals from seed saves you a great deal of money compared to buying flowers from your local nursery. You should plant slow-growing annuals indoors under grow lights six to eight weeks before transplanting them into the garden. In general, the transplant date should be shortly after the danger of frost has passed, a date that varies depending on where you live.
Annuals that transplant well after starting indoors include:
Be aware that it’s not worth the trouble of starting many fast-growing annuals indoors, including sunflowers, marigolds, morning glory, larkspurs, and zinnias. These flowers would be ready to transplant in just three to four weeks and run the risk of transplant shock. For this reason, wait until the danger of frost has passed and sow fast-growing annuals directly in your garden where you want them to grow.
Apply Weed Control
You have several weed control options, but the primary types are pre-emergence weed control applied before weeds germinate, and post-emergence weed control for actively growing broadleaf weeds. Pre-herbicides are a good preemptive measure for stopping unwanted plants, but broadleaf weeds might still take hold even if you apply pre-herbicides earlier in the season.
If your winter yard is riddled with broadleaf weeds, now’s the time to apply post-herbicides. One option is to use a liquid spray herbicide. This is generally more effective than granular herbicide products, which have a higher chance of also injuring the turfgrass. Since this type of herbicide delays the spring green-up, apply it to the entire lawn so every area comes out of dormancy at the same time.
Improve Yard Drainage
If the ground isn’t frozen, winter is a great time to install French drains. Then, when wet spring weather arrives, improved yard drainage promotes a healthier lawn and lowers the chance of a basement flood. A French drain is a gravel-filled trench containing a perforated pipe that redirects surface runoff and groundwater away from a building. Installing one on your property is easy. Just follow these steps:
Decide where to install the French drain. Ideal parameters include a downward-sloping route running parallel to your home or business located at least 1 meter from nearby walls or fences and clear of any other obstructions.
Dig a 6-inch-wide trench no deeper than the nearest building foundation.
Lay 3 inches of gravel along the bottom of the trench.
Line the entire length of the trench with landscape fabric, leaving roughly 10 inches of excess fabric on each side.
Insert a perforated drain pipe into the trench atop the fabric lining and cover the drain pipe with gravel.
Fold over the excess landscape fabric to protect the lined drain pipe.
Fill the trench with sand followed by topsoil. Add a bed of stones around the open end of the drain pipe. If desired, cover the French drain with turf.
Have Your Soil Tested
If your lawn and garden performed below your expectations last season, the reason might have nothing to do with the color of your thumb. Instead, the soil may be low in nitrogen or high in phosphorus. It’s impossible to tell your soil’s composition just by looking at it. Investing in soil testing eliminates the confusion of which fertilizer to purchase in the spring.
The results of a soil test reveal the levels of nitrogen, phosphorus, calcium, potassium, and magnesium, as well as the soil pH. This is typically everything you need to know to accurately fertilize your soil and ensure strong grass, flower, and vegetable garden growth next season.
To take a soil sample:
Dip a hole about 12 inches deep with a spade or sharpshooter.
Cut a 1-inch slice of soil from the wall of the hole about 6 to 7 inches down. Place this soil sample in a bucket.
Repeat this process in four to six places throughout your garden, depending on how large your yard is.
Thoroughly mix all the samples together and mail it to a nearby soils testing laboratory. If you prefer, you can purchase a soil test kit and test your sample at home.
Use the results from the soil test to supplement your garden with a fertilizer containing the proper nutrients.
Get Help from The Grounds Guys®
Your New Year’s resolution to achieve a more beautiful lawn and garden can be hard work! Fortunately, with help from The Grounds Guys, you can accomplish your goal without putting a strain on your time or physical capabilities. Don’t worry – you’re not cheating by handing off the hard work to our professional crew, and by using us as your lawn care experts, you free up more time for self-betterment and home improvement projects in the New Year!
For more winter gardening tips, or to schedule services with The Grounds Guys, please contact us today!