January Garden Sustainable Maintenance Practices for the Southeast

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Happy New Year! Welcome to January, Friends!

JANUARY.  The sun is low on most January days, but my hopes are high. When I walk the garden during the winter, I hope to find solace in nature. As I look around, the trees, void of leaves, show me structure and strength. They make me feel stronger with every step I take. ~Helen Yoest, Click to Tweet!

January is also an excellent time to look back on your gardening year and to plan for the year ahead. Walk around your garden and take photos. Seeing your garden through the lens is telling, and looking at these pictures can help you see where you may want to make changes. You mind can block out clutter to give a more settled view. Take a picture of your garden areas as they are now, and notice what clutter can be changed and accept or hide what can’t. Even better, photograph your garden each month as a photo journal of what is blooming and when.

BLOOM & BERRY. Later in January in the Bee Better Teaching Garden, we’ll have blooming the flowering apricot, Prunus mume ‘Bridal Veil’, early blooming daffodils, such as Narcissus ‘February Gold’, pansies, snowdrops, Galanthus spp., camellias, and mahonias.

The berries remain, ripening for the birds, on holly trees and mahonias. To supplement feed for the birds, try making this!

GROOM. Wildlife welcomes cover, particularly in the winter. Leaving woody perennials, such as Arkansas blue star (Amsonia hubrichtii), asters and black-eyed Susans, (Rudbeckia spp.)  to name a few, up throughout the winter is very helpful for our outdoor friends. Lots of life gathers under the spent foliage. I cut back soft-stemmed perennials, like Crinums, Elephant Ears (Colocasia spp.) and cannas, as soon as they’ve been melted by the frost. Remember too a winter garden can be cut back to look tidy and benefit the wildlife as well. For example, any hollow-stemmed perennial, such as Amsonia hubrichtii and, also known as Bluestar and Eupatorium fistulosum (Joe Pye weed or hollow-stemmed Joe Pye weed.) These stems are the ideal size for our native mason bees to nest. Nature knows. It’s fun to build beneficial bungalows for our native bees, and it’s even better when we can let nature do the designs for us!

PLANT. As long as the ground isn’t frozen, you can still plant trees, shrubs, and bulbs. With regards to trees and shrubs, we believe you’re better off planting now instead of waiting until spring. Give new plants weekly water in the absence of an inch or less of rain for a year for shrubs and two years for trees.

BULBS.  If the ground isn’t frozen, bulbs can still be planted. Also look for bulbs on sale in January too. You can get good deals at your local garden center, and there’s still time to plant!. We like adding bulbs to containers; that way we can easily situate a splash of color where we need it most.

VEGETABLES. A warm January day is a good excuse to get outside and work your garden soil. If you have not had the soil tested in a couple of years, now is a good time to do so. A soil test will give you an assessment of pH and if you need to know other nutrients, such as lime. Soil recommendations are based on what you’re growing or planning to grow. For example, blueberries need a pH of around 4.8, whereas strawberries prefer 5.8 to nearly neutral. The analysts will then recommend what you need to add and how much to meet your agriculture goal.

EDIBLE FRUITS. We only every want to speak from experience; these are the fruits we grow in theBee Better Teaching Garden.

No fruit this month. Here is the list of fruit trees we grow.

WILDLIFE. The Bee Better Teaching Garden is full of food for the wintering birds, but we want to see my feathered friends from the inside of the home, too. So during the cold season, we place feeders where they can be viewed best from the office desk

One of the best all-around seed for birds is the black-oil sunflower. This seed has a high meat-to-shell ratio, it is high in fat, and it is sized perfectly for many seed eaters, including, black-capped chickadees, cardinals, mourning doves, finches, juncos, jays, woodpeckers, and sparrows. Check out this post on wildlife cover!

Click here to see types of feeders and feed. Click here to make your own wreaths. Treat your feathered friends with suet too. The fat will be well appreciated!

SUSTAINABLE PRACTICES
Waterwise:  With a waterwise design, watering in the absence of rain is a breeze. Helen Yoest designed the Bee Better Teaching Garden with waterwise principles. We have very little watering to do, and what watering we do have, is contained.  For example, in one of the Oasis Zones, we have a collection of boxwoods in containers. But the watering is smart. These containers are near a watering source, so moving around a hose isn’t a big deal.

MULCH.  Incorporating or top-dressing with a thick blanket of an organic matter — such as compost, composted leaf mold or manure — is most helpful in the vegetable garden and garden beds.

PESTS. Check trees and shrubs for tent caterpillar egg masses and bagworms. Remove any that you find. Tent caterpillar egg masses are gray and varnished looking, and form a collar around twigs. Bagworms look somewhat like a tiny pinecone and hang at the end of branches. Euthanize or feed to your chickens.

If you haven’t already cleaned your hosta beds, now is a good time to remove the dead foliage. Don’t give slugs any advantage. Even if the look of the previous season’s cannas doesn’t bother you, take them down. Leaf rollers like to over winter.

DECORATE. Cut some branches for indoor enjoyment. With the holiday festivities behind us and winter wearing on, why not cheer up the inside of your home with blooming branches. Forsythia, pussy willow, quince, winter honeysuckle and redbud are all good branches to force to bloom early. Collect long branches, cut a slant with a sharp knife or clippers, and place the stems in a vase of water. Change the water every four days. Within about four weeks, your branches will bloom.