Pruning the seed capsules off the tips of your crepe myrtles will give you larger bloom clusters this summer. Also prune the dead blooms from Rose of Sharon.
Clean your fireplaces and place the wood ashes around lilacs, roses, peonies, clematis, daffodils and vegetable garden. The ashes add both lime and potash to the soil. Do not put the ashes around your acid-loving plants.
If we get a snow storm this year; sprinkle bird seed (the birds will love you), sand or kitty litter on icy walks. Do not use salt which will burn your plants and shrubs and will eat away at bricks. Don’t forget to gently scoop fresh snow off boxwoods and evergreens for the snow may freeze and break branches.
Don’t discard your amaryllis and other forced bulbs (except paper-whites). Cut off the flower heads and place plant in a sunny indoor location. Every second watering add a half dose of fertilizer to the water. In the spring place your potted amaryllis outside (bring back inside in the fall) and plant the other bulbs in your garden.
Poinsettia plants can also be reused each year. Keep the plant in a sunny location where the night time temperature is no colder than 60 degrees. The soil should be kept damp and fertilized lightly when new growth appears. When the temperature is warm enough the plant should be cut back and spent the summer outside. In October bring the plant indoors for 12 hours of darkness a day (I set my 2006 poinsettia in a dark corner of a room.) and in December the bracts will turn to color for Christmas.
It is not too soon to start forcing blooms from flowering shrubs and trees. Forsythia is especially easy. Also try crabapple, peach, plum, pussy willow, quince, winter jasmine and witch hazel.
After a cold snap check to see if any perennials have risen from their beds. This is caused from the ground freezing then thawing. Press the plant’s soil covered roots back into the ground and cover with mulch.
My vegetable garden is still providing arugula, chard, cilantro, parsley and sage. On the north side of the garden I used discarded windows as a wind break. When the temperature hits 32o or below, I throw old sheets over my plants.
With the unseasonable warm weather insects emerge. The Boxelder bugs swam on the southern side of my home and often find entry to the inside. These bugs are usually harmless both to plants and humans, but can stain the house siding.
It is not too early to start planning your spring vegetable garden. Start sowing seeds of cool season vegetables, such as arugula, in indoor pots or trays. Also start seeds of lavender, chives, dill, rosemary, thyme and parsley. Seeds of peas (soak over night), lettuce, spinach and chard can be planted in your garden if protected with a cover of black fabric.