Perennials: This is the gardener’s time to read and study. Read gardening books, old and new, for inspiration and gardening history. Plan a new garden, even a corner where color or texture will be effective. Use branches of Christmas trees as protective mulch on the perennial bed. Snow is the best protective mulch.
Flowers: Organize the seed catalogs. Try some heirloom flowers, so popular and interesting now. Read about new varieties offered every year, especially the award winners which introduce new show stopping colors. Shorter versions of tall perennials and dwarf varieties of shrubs fill a need in small garden spaces.
Vegetables and fruits: Plan to rotate crops when planning this year’s vegetable garden. Each vegetable family is susceptible to distinct pests and diseases. Some crops consume more nutrients than others. Try to wait three years before planting the same crop in the same place. Prepare for pruning fruit trees when the weather moderates.
Trees and shrubs: Prune any broken or dead branches near the trunk. Make sure mulching material is not smothering the flared part of the trunk.
Lawns: Read up on pest control. Timing of applications is critical for effective grub control and will save money, too. Know the life cycles of your pests.
Houseplants: Amaryllis is worth the effort to care for during the year. For now, cut off faded blooms, leave foliage to grow, watering when dry. After the danger of frost, the plant should go outside for the summer. Don’t feel guilty about tossing out poinsettias, gloxinias or other holiday gift plants when they begin to look ragged. Cyclamens like a cool environment, even an unheated porch where the temperature is 50 to 60 degrees.
General: Gardeners can be prepared for an extreme winter or just enjoy a “normal” season.
Susan Henry, master gardener with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Westchester