Growing Green: Deep in winter, plan for spring
The days are shorter (albeit getting slightly longer minute by minute), the wind is cold and plants are dormant. Even so, this is one of the best times to start planning for spring.
During winter, we should be preparing for another successful season of gardening. Here are some tips to make your garden a success.
Check out the landscape for signs of insects and diseases. Be on the lookout for spotted lanternfly egg masses. For information on what to look for and how to destroy the eggs: extension.psu.edu/spotted-lanternfly.
Scout for one- to two-inch spindle-shaped silken bags, camouflaged with bits of leaves, bark, and debris that hang from the branches like little pinecones. These are caused by bagworms. There can be hundreds on one arborvitae shrub. If you can safely pick them off, do so, and dispose of them in your garbage.
Study the “skeleton” of your winter landscape and try to picture where you would place a pathway, arbor or other improvement.
After a snowstorm, remove heavy snow from shrubs.
On mild days, remove winter weeds of chickweed, hairy bittercress, and wild onions.
Grape vines may be pruned now.
Cut down vines that are damaging trees, but make sure you know what kind of vine it is.
Poison ivy is deciduous. In the winter, dormant poison ivy plants may lose their leaves and berries, and it may be difficult to tell if the plant is still alive.
Even with dead poison ivy, all parts of the plant, including roots and stems, contain rash-causing urushiol.
If you till your soil in the spring, this is a good time to lay manure and ground limestone over the soil or snow.
Start cleaning and sharpening your garden tools so they are ready for spring. Sharpen hand-pruners, loppers and saws and make sure to oil moving parts.
Prepare to prune trees and shrubs during their dormant winter season. Cutting into live tissue during the winter will help prevent the spread of diseases such as fire blight, which is a bacterium that can be spread by pruning tools in warm, wet weather.
Removing dead branches in winter will allow for good wound closure when spring arrives. Make sure you know how to properly prune. Remember, once you cut it off, you can’t glue it back on. Penn State Extension has pruning information that you can check out on its website.
Take an inventory of your seeds. Check old seeds for viability by testing a few. Place seeds between moist paper towels and if germination is low, discard and purchase new seeds.
If new seeds are needed, browse through garden seed catalogs and place mail orders now. Read the seed catalogs to familiarize yourself with new plant varieties and determine which will work in the Lehigh Valley region climate and your site conditions.
Plan for a great garden. Lay out your garden plan on graph paper or use a computer database. Rotate vegetable crops to different locations each season.
Force bulbs which have been held in the cold.
Make a compost bin, cold frame, or another indoor project that you will use later.
Spring will be here before we know it, so now is a great time to get prepared.
“Growing Green” is contributed by Lehigh County Extension Office Staff and Master Gardeners. Information: Lehigh County Extension Office, 610-391-9840; Northampton County Extension Office, 610-813-6613.