After a month or more of wintry weather, we are usually blessed with a mid-winter warmup here in western Maryland. It’s a great opportunity to throw off cabin fever, spend some time in the garden, and tidy-up for the glorious reawakening of spring.
This is the perfect time to rake over the yard and remove any leftover fallen leaves and debris, and dare I say it-even to mow over the grass if it was left too shaggy in the fall. This lawn cleanup will help prevent fungus by allowing light and air to reach the sod. Overly long grass and excessive leaves trap moisture, which can mold and cause disease.
During the winter warmup is also a good time to apply your spring fertilizer and grub control, so that your lawn can take advantage of the nutrients as soon as the weather breaks. Early emerging grubs will be stopped before they can do any damage. Plus, you’ll feel good about how neat and tidy your lawn looks; and you’ll benefit physically and spiritually from spending time outdoors.
Flower Beds, Shrubs, and Trees
Take the time to remove all dead stems from your flower beds. It is much easier to do it now than to wait until after first growth appears, when you may have difficulty preventing damage to tender shoots. This is also a good time to remove hardy weeds from the soft soil. Add a new layer of mulch if needed.
Roses (except climbers and ramblers) should be cut back to three or four sturdy outside canes. Remove all wood that grows in toward the center. The health of roses is enhanced when plenty of air and light can reach the center. Cut canes back allowing at least 12 inches of stem to remain. They’ll look scrawny after this pruning, but will reward you with vigorous new growth and an abundance of flowers in spring.
Other shrubs can be renovated at this time as well. This is the time to thin out lilacs and forsythias, always removing the oldest 3-5 canes from the center of the plant. Remove them at ground level. This will help ensure maximum flower production. Do not prune other ornamentals until after they bloom in spring.
Trees may be pruned more easily in winter when the leaves are off. Consult a pruning handbook or contact a local tree service for best results. Remove “volunteers” and suckers from around the base of crabapple trees and maple trees. These may pop up a good distance from the trunk, along the roots. Cut them out below ground level. If you add mulch around the base of the trees, make it no more than 4 inches deep so that oxygen can reach the roots.
Garden Pools and Ponds
Now is the time to remove floating debris from the pond, before the water freezes again. You may notice increased activity in your fish, but don’t feed them. They can’t digest food when the water is below 50 degrees F. They will continue to live off accumulated fat until spring arrives and the water temperature rises.
Reap the Benefits of Winter Gardening
Tending to your lawn and garden during the winter warmup has several advantages. It gets you out of the house and into the sunshine, helping alleviate the inevitable cabin fever most people suffer during the winter. You will reap the reward of a good stretch and a little exercise, which may be lacking in your daily winter routine. You will feel proud when you see how much better your property looks. Your plants will have received some much-needed TLC. But most of all, it will save you the trouble of having to do this work in addition to the usual round of gardening chores when spring arrives. You’ll be enjoying the beauty of spring while