Meet with Arborists
Wondering if your trees and large shrubs should be pruned or treated for insects and diseases? Interview certified and insured arborists in December for pruning work in January and February. A meeting for a proposal and estimate are usually free. If possible, discuss tree care proposals and get estimates from three or four arborists. Consulting with professionals this way is an excellent opportunity to learn more about your plants, your landscape, and the latest in tree care.
Clean, Sharpen Tools and Preserve Handles
Scrape and wash off dirt and soil from tool handles and blades. Smooth wooden handles with sandpaper and wipe off dust. Then rub a generous amount of linseed oil into the handles. Metal blades will benefit from being stored in a mixture of sand moistened with lubricating oil. Sharpen blades (shovel, trowel, hoe, cultivator) or have them sharpened either before storing in sand/oil mixture or in early spring.
Mulch and Wrap Camellias and Figs
Unprotected camellias in exposed conditions can suffer winter bud, leaf, and stem damage. Fig trees, too. Make sure there's a 3-inch layer of organic mulch (composted leaves, pine needles, shredded bark mulch) covering the root area. Mulch should not touch the base or branches. Start mulch about 6 inches from the base and cover an area 3 to 4 feet around the shrub. Encasing the shrub or tree in microfoam or a poly row cover and burlap will reduce wind and cold damage.
Fertilize Garden Beds and Shrubs
If you haven't fertilized since spring, now's a good time to apply slow-release fertilizer around shrubs and in garden beds. Two types will decompose slowly throughout winter for plants' use come spring: granular mineral fertilizer and organic fertilizers. Commercial, horticultural granular mineral fertilizer with macro- (NPK) and micro-nutrients breaks down via microorganisms and being dissolved in water. This type often contains naturally occurring minerals such as mine rock phosphate, sulfate of potash, limestone as well as compost, dried blood, bone meal, and kelp (seaweed). Naturally occurring organic fertilizers include manure, slurry, worm castings, seaweed, guano, and compost.
Oven-Dry Nuts and Cones
Using nuts and pine cones as decorations? The Brandywine Conservancy Web site recommends preserving them as follows. Dry in a slow oven for an hour or more and leave in the oven until cool. Nuts, especially, must be oven-dried to kill any worms or insects inside. Place pine cones with heavy sap in a slow oven (turned to lowest temperature) on cookie sheets covered with foil. Sap "bakes" onto the pine cone. That makes it easier to handle and gives the cone a natural shine.