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Indoor and Outdoor Plant Care Between December and February

November 22, 2010
Taking care of your Indoor and Outdoor plants in Bellingham, WA in the winter

Winter Plant Care in Bellingham, WA

Many people see the fall and winter as a time to close down the garden and wait until the spring to start up gardening activities again. However, there are plenty of things you can be doing through the fall and winter months to continue enjoying the pleasures of gardening, both indoors and out.

As most gardeners soon realize, prepping your plants for the winter is a never ending task — gardening does not end just because summer is over. The timing of gardening chores and events can vary from year to year, depending on weather and site conditions, but a lifetime of winter gardening in the Pacific Northwest has taught me a few tricks to keep things looking great, even through the winter months.

Below is a basic guide to help sort out both the WHAT and the WHEN to tackle the most important tasks to keep both your outdoor AND your indoor garden plants looking fresh and fantastic for the holiday season and beyond.

 Enjoy the season ~ Amy Harmon

Indoor Plants

Houseplants need additional light in the winter months

Houseplants getting additional sunlight through the windows

December

  • Check houseplants for brown, dry edges on their leaves. This may indicate too little relative humidity in the house. Increase humidity by running a humidifier, grouping plants together, or using pebble trays.
  • Extend the beauty of holiday plants, such as poinsettias and Christmas cactus, by placing them in a cool, brightly lit area free from drafts.
  • Houseplants may not receive adequate light because days are short and gloomy. Move plants closer to windows, but avoid placing foliage against cold glass panes. Another option is to add artificial lighting in the area.
  • Because growth slows or stops in winter months, most plants will require less water and much less fertilizer.
  • If you are forcing bulbs for the holidays, bring them into warmer temperatures after they have been sufficiently “precooled”. Two to four weeks of warm temperatures (60°F), bright light, and moderately moist soil are needed to bring on flowers. Bulbs require a chilling period of about 10 to 12 weeks at 40°F to initiate flowerbeds and establish root growth. Precooled bulbs are available from many garden suppliers if you did not get yours cooled in time.
  • When shopping for a Christmas tree, check for flexible, green needles that do not shed, and a sticky trunk base, both indicators of freshness. Make a fresh cut on the trunk, and keep the cut end under water at all times.
  • Evergreens, except pines and spruce, can be trimmed now for a fresh supply of holiday greenery. Use proper pruning techniques to preserve the beauty of landscape plants.

January

  • Keep holiday poinsettias and other plants near bright window. Water as the top of soil becomes dry.
  • Check produce and tender bulbs that you have dug up and kept in storage. Discard any that show signs of decay, like mold or softening. Shriveling indicates insufficient relative humidity.

February

  • Check water levels daily in cut-flower vases and re-cut ends as needed.
  • Repot houseplants as they outgrow current pots.
  • Early blooms of spring-flowering bulbs can make a beautiful gift for your sweetheart. Keep the plant in a bright, cool location for longer lasting blooms. Forced bulbs make poor garden flowers and should be discarded as blooms fade.

Lawns, Woody Ornamentals, Landscape Plants, and Tree Fruits

December

  • Prevent bark-splitting of young and thin-barked trees, such as fruit and maple trees. Wrap trunks with tree wrap, or paint trunks with white latex (not oil-based) paint, particularly on the south- and southwest-facing sides.
  • Protect shrubs, such as junipers and arborvitae, from extensive snow loads by tying their stems together with twine. Carefully remove heavy snow loads with a broom to prevent limb breakage.
  • Protect broadleaf evergreens, or other tender landscape plants from excessive drying by winter sun and wind. Place canvas, burlap, or polyethylene plastic screens to the southland west to protect the plants. Similarly, shield plants from street and sidewalk salt spray.
  • Provide winter protection for roses by mounding soil approximately 12 inches high to insulate the graft union. Additional organic mulch, such as straw, compost, or chopped leaves, can be placed on top. Wait until late winter or early spring to prune.

January

  • Check the lower trunks of young trees for rodent injury. Prevent injury to the tree with hardware cloth/ or protective collars.
  • “Leaf”  (my feeble attempt of a pun) through the nursery catalogs and make plans for landscape and fruit orchard purchases. Order early for best selection.
  • Cut branches of forsythia, honeysuckle, pussy willow, crabapple and other early spring-flowering plants to force into blooming indoors. Place the branches in warm water and set them in a cool location.

February

  • Check mulches, salt/windscreens, rodent shields, and other cold weather plant protections to make sure they are in place.
  • Prune landscape plants, except early spring bloomers, Rhododendrons or other plants that have already budded, which should be pruned after flowers fade.
  • Prune fruit trees to control tree size. Remove dead, damaged, or weak limbs.

Flowers, Vegetables, and Small Fruits

December

  • Protect newly planted or tender perennials by applying mulch such as straw, chopped leaves, or other organic material after plants become dormant.
  • Store leftover garden chemicals where they will stay dry, unfrozen, and out of the reach of children, pets, and unsuspecting adults.
  • Mulch strawberries when temperatures have dropped to 20°F.
  • Clean up dead plant materials, synthetic mulch, and other debris in the vegetable garden as wells in the flower beds, rose beds, and orchards.
  • Order seed catalogs, and make notes for next year’s garden.

January

  • Browse through garden catalogs and order seeds and plants early for best selection.
  • Sketch your garden plans on paper, including what to grow, spacing, arrangement, and number of plants needed.
  • Wood ashes from the fireplace can be spread in the garden, but don’t overdo it. Wood ashes increase soil pH, and excess application can make some nutrients unavailable for plant uptake. Have your soil tested to be certain of the Ph before adding wood ash.

February

  • Prepare or repair lawn and garden tools for the upcoming season. (This will be the next article and I will link the two)
  • Start seeds indoors for cool-season veggies so they will be ready for transplanting to the garden early in the season. Broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage seeds should be started five to seven weeks prior to transplanting.
  • Test leftover garden seed for germination. Place 10 seeds between moist paper toweling or cover with a thin layer of soil. Keep seeds warm and moist. If less than six seeds germinate, then fresh seed should be purchased.

 If you are in need of a residential or commercial yard clean up or grounds maintenance work, give us a call and tell us about your landscaping needs.  We would be happy to give you a  free estimate and work with you to give your landscaping the care it needs this season.

Our Garden and Winter Yard Clean Up services include pruning, leaf clean up, branch and debris clean up, mulching, hedge and shrub trimming, weed control, fertilizing, increasing curb appeal, waste removal, weeding, yard clean ups, spreading new beauty bark or gravel, planting and/or removal of plants, and much more. Remember to mulch now to protect your plants before it snows! Call Green Thumb Company at (360) 671-LAWN or Request a Quote directly from our website.