Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

Upper South

January, 2005
Regional Report

Fend Off Winter Pests

Although pests are usually thought of as a problem during the growing season, plants can certainly be damaged during the winter, especially from mice, rabbits, and deer. Rather than wait for damage to appear, be proactive by installing mesh hardware cloth, chicken wire, or plastic trunk guards around trunks of young trees and those with thin bark. Also pull mulch or snow cover away from tree trunks. Apply repellents, such as pepper-garlic sprays, on a regular basis.

Clean Houseplants

Clean dust off leaves of houseplants periodically. Dust can hinder light penetration to the leaves as well as slow down gas and moisture exchange. If not too large to move, place plants in the shower and let water run through the soil to leach out minerals and salts. For larger plants, wipe the leaves with a damp cloth. This is also a good time to check closely for pests. Make notes of which plants will need repotting in early spring.

Take Inventory

Go through your supply of fertilizers and pest controls. Discard any with expired dates or in unmarked containers. Go through garden supply catalogs to study new products that might be safer or more effective than materials you've previously used, and place orders. Mail-order suppliers usually have a much wider range of materials available than local sources. There are also a number of newer products that enhance growth and make plants less susceptible to pests. Clean sprayers and dusters.

Work Compost

Although compost doesn't "cook" as much during colder weather, you can continue to add vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, and eggshells to the compost pile. Use a chipper/shredder to grind up limbs and other garden waste to add. Using blood meal or compost activator will speed up decomposition as the weather warms. Turning the pile now will increase the oxygen necessary for decomposition. After turning, wet the pile down and cover with a sheet of plastic to help the pile retain heat.

Fluff Mulch

Mulch on flower and shrub beds can become matted and prevent moisture from penetrating. Use a garden fork to loosen the mulch surface and gently flip it over. Be careful not to disturb plant roots. Notice areas where mulch is thin, and add more. Although many people like the appearance of cypress mulch, not only are cypress groves being destroyed because of this practice, it is much better for the garden to use a hardwood mulch as it decomposes more quickly and improves the soil.


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