A HOMEGROWN TRADITION: Be a winter gardener

A HOMEGROWN TRADITION: Be a winter gardener

Just because the weather is cold and the leaves are gone, doesn’t mean the gardening season is over.

There are plenty of things to do when it’s cold and wet outside!

I’ve found if I get all the ‘clean up’ done in the winter, I can jump in to the fun stuff as soon as spring hits.

PRUNE FOR HEALTH. While spring is the best time to prune for shape or growth, winter is the optimal time to prune for health. Take some time and scout your trees and shrubs for dead tissue. Removal of dead tissue decreases the potential of disease and insect entry via wound/stress. Additionally, the plant will direct its energy toward new growth versus dead shoots and branches.

REMOVE UNINVITED PLANTS aka WEEDS. Think about it – spring is the time nature releases seeds to reproduce and multiply. The last thing you want to do is leave weeds in your lawn and garden over winter so that when spring arrives, they’re ready to proliferate your yard with loads more weeds! Getting the last of them out of gardens and lawns is a top-priority task.

MULCH IT. Mulch acts as a root insulator not only in the summer, but also in the winter. Survey your wood plants and beds to assure adequate coverage … but remember, don’t over-mulch. Over-mulching limits air flow to the roots and can cause decay to the trunks.
Mulch should be at 2 – 4 inches, no more. Fluff what’s there to prevent compaction, assess what areas are in need.

CLEAN CAGES AND CONTAINERS. Use the down time to clean up. Clean, repair and store garden trellises, seed trays, pots, tomato cages and stakes.

CLEAN UP TOOLS and PUT THEM AWAY. If you’re like me, you have the best of intentions but don’t always follow through. Winter
time is the perfect season to play catch up. Clean your tools to remove debris and any rust that may have accumulated over the season. You can also sharpen any dull edges by filing in one direction. Linseed oil can work wonders on older wooden handles.

EVALUATE. Sit back and take some time to think about what did and didn’t work well for you in 2018. This will be your first step in a successful landscape and garden in 2019. Plan out color schemes. Break out the seed catalogs. Determine your budget. And dream a little
while you’re at it. I like to do a little extra research on the ‘why nots’ from the previous year as well as those I hope to utilize new.

Just because it’s winter, it doesn’t mean time stops for a gardener as there are many chores that can be done to keep our gardens going throughout the year.

winter gardening“A Home Grown Tradition” is written by Amy Dismukes. Amy is the TSU Nursery Production Specialist at the Otis L. Floyd Nursery Research Center in McMinnville. Amy is a graduate of Auburn University, where she received a Bachelor of Liberal Arts, a Bachelor of Science in Horticulture and a Master of Agriculture in Plant Pathology and Entomology. Amy worked as the Horticulture Extension Agent for Williamson County, Tennessee for almost six years before transferring to Nursery Production. She provides educational training regarding best management practices and issues with insects, plant diseases, soil and weeds. Amy is a frequent guest speaker for professional, garden and horticultural associations and commercial pesticide workshops/conferences. Email any questions to Amy at adismuk1@tnstate.edu.

This column includes research-based recommendations from Tennessee State University and the University of Tennessee. Extension is committed to affirmative action, equal opportunity and the diversity of its workforce. Educational pro-grams serve all people regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability, sexual orientation or national origin.

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