Savor the Catalogs
The D. Landreth Seed Company catalog just arrived! It resembles a vintage broadsheet with enticing drawings; plant descriptions; horticultural history; tomato (heirlooms too), veggie, and flower photos. An example: "Red Meat: This is the most beautiful radish I have ever seen." On the Patio Gardener insert: 'Golden Midget' watermelon: "This will soon be an heirloom but for now it is an excellent, if not unusual, patio garden plant... a MUST HAVE for the container garden." Curl up with YOUR favorite catalogs now. It won't be long till spring's inviting you to resume garden chores.
Remove Insect Casings from Trees and Shrubs
Look for insect casings -- bagworms, Eastern tent caterpillars, gypsy moths -- on bare branches of deciduous and coniferous trees. Pull off and destroy bagworm eggs hanging in small, cone-shaped bags made of leaves and twigs (http://woodypests.cas.psu.edu/FactSheets/InsectFactSheets/html/Bagworm.html). Prune/remove twigs with shiny, oval, brown masses. These masses contain from 150 to 350 Eastern tent caterpillar eggs! (http://woodypests.cas.psu.edu/FactSheets/InsectFactSheets/html/East_Tent_Caterpillar.html). Innocuous, woolly-looking tan blotches on bark and rocks are gypsy moth egg masses. Brush them off (http://dnr.wi.gov/org/caer/ce/eek/critter/insect/mothface.htm).
Clean Chain Saw and Lawn Sprinkler
Even if you're not inclined to do a full chain saw tuneup, two easy things will help your machine run better. Clean the air filter and clean or replace the fuel filter. Remove the air filter from the mouth of the carburetor and clean it by blowing with compressed air or rinsing in soap and water. Cleaning or replacing the fuel filter is more complicated and involves draining the tank.
Winterize the Mower
If you'd rather not do it yourself, take your lawnmower to be cleaned now, before the spring rush for service. Some recommend leaving fuel in the tank to prevent condensation; others insist on an empty fuel tank for the winter. Everyone agrees that removing gas from the carburetor is a must! Store the mower on a wooden pallet not the concrete floor that holds moisture. Remove grass and dirt from cracks and crevices in the undercarriage.
Check Shrubs for Scale
On a warm winter day, check evergreens such as azaleas, camellias, euonymus, as well as hydrangeas, for scale. Look closely and carefully, especially down at the shrub's base or trunk. Scale looks like smooth or fluffy whitish bumps; the coating protects insect eggs. Dormant horticultural oil will suffocate the eggs under the scale coating. Apply when ambient temperatures are between 40 and 85 degrees F and when no below-32-degree temperatures are predicted for the next 24 hours.