Helpful Garden Tips for January and February
Last updated 1/3/2023 at 9pm | View PDF
Happy New Year!
Hopefully, January is a month of continuing snow, rain, fog and misty mornings. Although plant growth slows down in the cold soils of winter, some growth continues, often only underground. Our winter and early-spring blooming shrubs, bulbs and perennials love all this frosty damp weather. And whatever moisture is not used can be stored deep in the soil for later use.
Although we can plant year-round, we usually delay most planting until the (relatively) warmer days of mid to late February. The exception is bare root planting. Here are some tips:
• Bare root fruit trees are now available. Check their pollination requirements; not all fruit trees are self-fertile, and some will require a cross pollinator.
• Bare root roses – Hybrid teas, floribundas, climbers, miniatures and shrubs are available.
• Bare root berries and grapes – Plant grape vines, cane boysenberries, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries and strawberries.
You can also plant beets, carrots, leek, lettuce, onion, parsley, radish, seed potatoes, onions, peas, radish, spinach, artichokes and asparagus directly in the garden this month.
We have less to do in January, but there are a couple of chores that are perfect to do this month. One of them is spraying roses, deciduous flowering trees and deciduous fruit trees with winter horticultural oil to smother overwintering insects like spider mites, scales, mealy bugs and peach twig borers. Spray the branches, crotches, trunk and the ground beneath the tree's drip line. Hold off spraying if rain is forecast, or if the temperature is below 45 degrees.
Never spray oil on walnut trees. If you didn't spray your peach or nectarine tree for peach leaf curl in November or December, spray now with a copper-based or a synthetic fungicide. You don't have to apply horticultural oil if you are lucky enough not to have these specific pests.
The other main chore of January is pruning deciduous trees, shrubs and roses. Remove all broken, diseased or crossing branches first. Two basic cutting techniques are used in general pruning: thinning and heading. Thinning cuts remove entire branches, resulting in a more natural look. Thinning cuts are also used to allow more air circulation and light into the interior of the tree.
Heading cuts shorten branches and should only be used on small branches. Use heading cuts judiciously to shorten over-long branches. You can take off about a quarter of the previous season's growth on these newer smaller branches if you want to keep the tree smaller. Make sure to cut back to an outward facing bud to direct new growth away from the interior of the tree. You want to end up with a tree that looks balanced and well-structured.
Apply pre-emergent herbicide for warm season weeds. Read and follow the package directions carefully. If you don't choose to use chemical weed control, lightly till your young seedling weeds frequently.
Monitor or turn off your irrigation controller if you haven't already. You will want to deep water if we have an extended dry period, but don't waste water – and all the resources it takes for the water to get to the sprinkler or drip emitter – if we don't need it.
Instead of sending leaves off your property, shred them and use them as mulch. A "new" trend is something called "regenerative landscaping," which is what many of us have been doing for years: choosing methods that improve soil, plant and planet health for the generations to come.
In all types and sizes of gardens, we can use "least toxic first" pest control methods, tolerate a little wildness in parts of the garden, grow some plants just for the birds, pollinators, lizards, toads or even small mammals, and tolerate some damage in order to keep the chain of life healthy.
This year, I will continue to garden with a spirit of partnership with the plants, helping them as needed, but also allowing them to develop relationships with the rest of the garden's life.
The Tulare -Kings Counties Master Gardeners will be available to answer your questions:
Jan. 18, 8-10 a.m. – Public Rose Pruning Day with the Master Gardeners at the Tulare County Courthouse, Visalia;
Jan. 14 – Rose Pruning Workshop, Woodlake Botanical Garden - 10 a.m. to 1 p.m .; and
Jan. 21 – Rose Pruning Workshop, Ralph Moore Garden, Visalia – 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Tulare County: (559) 684-3325, Tuesday and Thursday, 9:30-11:30 a.m .;
Kings County: (559) 852-2736, Thursday only, 9:30-11:30 a.m.
Visit our website for past articles, UC gardening information, or email us with your questions: http://ucanr.edu/sites/UC_Master_Gardeners/
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