IN THE YARD: What can gardeners do in January? | Home & Garden

Erin Browne

The weather we have had for the past two weeks has made it difficult to go outside and do anything in the garden.

It is just as well since there really is not much we can do with our plants anyway. So what do we do to kill time until we can get back out there and get some soil under our fingernails?

I heard or read a statement recently that seems appropriate: “Gardeners can spend this time dreaming and planning.” This can be time well spent or at least time spent on things we enjoy doing.

If nothing else, just sit and think about what you want to do as you are watching the snow come down. Think about each small part of your landscape or each different garden spot and what you might try the same as last year or what you will do differently this coming spring. For example, I plan to put in a small cottage garden this spring in a spot I have never had a garden before. A couple of trees uprooted and fell, and created an open and sunny spot that I want to take advantage of.

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Between the two snowstorms we have had so far, I took some rough measurements. Now I am looking through catalogues for ideas of what I want to try. I am leaning toward a mix of black-eyed-Susans and purple cone flowers. This will be near my vegetable garden, so maybe this mix will attract some pollinators.

Since I am starting a new garden, I will have my soil tested at Virginia Tech (contact your local cooperative extension office for details). Parts of my lawn have not been tested for lime and fertilizer needs for more than three years. As soon as the weather will allow, I will go out and dig up some soil samples. The soils will probably still be wet, so I will need to spread it out in a dry location since the soil testing labs want dry samples. Keep soils from each area separate so you can get meaningful results.

Lawn soils are tested differently from flower garden and vegetable garden soils, and each has specific recommendations that are determined by what you state you are planning to do in that soil.

If you have any edging around your beds, you can look at that — after the snow melts — to see if any repair work is needed. Wood timbers tend to rot over time and should be replaced as needed. If bricks or other “hard” materials have been used as edging, make sure everything is where it belongs, Freezing and thawing soils will often push these things up and sometimes out of the soil.

My wife and I have been wanting a bench where we can sit in the shade and just relax and enjoy our yard. I was going to look for one this January but someone gave us one as a gift. It is in a box and it will take some time to assemble but that is not a problem. I love to put things together and I can appreciate the bench more if it is at least partly the result of my labors. As soon as the weather is such that I can do the work without my fingers going numb, I’ll go out under a shelter where I park my car and start working on it.

I planted a lot of new grass last fall on a new section of lawn that we have created. Soon after we sowed the grass, the rains stopped coming and we only got about ½ the grass coverage we need for the lawn. I have remeasured the areas that need more grass and worked out how many pounds of seed and fertilizer I will need to apply once it is warm enough in late February or early March. I know that fall is the best time to sow grass, but since the first try didn’t work as well as I needed, I will need to try this spring to prevent erosion in that new lawn.

I guess you can still garden in January but it will be more of a recliner type of gardening. Enjoy sitting in the warm indoors, sipping hot cocoa and make your plans for the coming spring. We will be getting busy soon enough so just take this time to relax.

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