Now that the holiday season has come to an end, use this time to recycle your Christmas tree! Be sure to check local bulletins to find out when and where this can be done. Feed the birds and if you can, provide them with unfrozen water (a heated water bowl works well for this). Make sure your plants aren’t heaving.
Fact: Frost heaving can break off a plant’s roots, exposing the plant’s crown and healthy roots to cold temperatures and drying winds. Heaving can seriously damage your perennials. Heaving occurs when there are wide temperature fluctuations. This causes exposed soil surfaces to freeze and thaw repeatedly, which is stressful. The soil eventually expands and contracts, which may cause plants to lift up or heave out of the soil.
Prevention: (1) Inspect your garden perennials and take corrective actions. (2) Place soil around the base of heaving plants to help cover exposed roots. (3) You may try carefully tamping the plants back into the ground. (4) Cover the plants with several inches of straw or pine needles to prevent further freezing and thawing cycles in late winter (again, this is a great use of your Christmas tree branches!).
Perennials that frequently frost heave
Pincushion Flower (Scabiosa)
Coral Bells (Heuchera)
Shasta Daisy (Leucanthemum)
Blanket Flower (Gaillardia)
Whirling Butterflies (Gaura)
Foamy Bells (Heucherella)
Garden Mum (Chrysanthemum)
Painted Daisy (Tanacetum)
If you live in a cold climate, get a head start on vegetables and flowers requiring stratification by doing some winter sowing. If you’re in zones 7+, you can start seeds of slow growing cool season vegetables, such as cauliflower leeks, and annual flowers (like ageratum, geranium, nicotiana, petunias, portulaca, snapdragons, and verbena) indoors. Now is the time to look at your indoor plants for pests.
Northern California and Northwestern residents should check their mulch. Add more paths for week suppression. Plants that aren’t hardy can be protected with any type of row cover on cold nights. You can start planting asparagus, artichokes, bareroot roses and fruit trees now. You should also finish pruning your trees, perennials and roses now. If you’re in Southern California, now is the time to prune fruit trees and roses. You can also plant trees, perennials, bareroot roses and cool season vegetables.
Southwest residents: Broccoli, cabbage, greens, onions, peas, turnips and other cool season crops can be sown now so that they can be transplanted in February. Direct sow your carrots, greens and peas at the end of January. You can also plant asparagus now. Grapes and roses can be pruned. Cool season flowers, such as pansies, petunias, snapdragons, sweet peas and violas can be transplanted. Be sure to keep your evergreens watered.
If you’re in Florida, plant quick-growing peas, radishes and spinach and slow-growing vegetables, such as eggplant, peppers and chiles. Once your raspberries canes have finished fruiting, prune them to the ground.