Share Indoor Gardening
Take advantage of the downtime in outdoor gardening to share indoor gardening experiences with others, whether they be grandchildren, a grade school class, shut-in neighbors, retirement home residents, or whomever might enjoy the time and effort you spend with them. There are lots of possibilities for projects. Some simple ones include building a terrarium, starting houseplant cuttings, or growing amaryllis bulbs.
Study New Ways to Improve Your Garden
Aspirin water (three aspirins dissolved in 4 gallons of water can boost plants' natural defenses against pests and diseases), neem spray (a pesticide made from the seed of the neem tree that controls both insects and diseases), mycorrhizal inoculants (adding them to the soil dramatically improves plant survival and growth), or the latest organic herbicides (vinegar and clove oil are two options) are just some of the newest ways to improve your garden. Do Web searches to learn more about these and others.
Prune Trees and Shrubs
Fruit trees and berries, as well as ornamental trees and shrubs, should be pruned while dormant in the winter. Pruning is useful for maintaining or reducing plant size; removing undesirable, dead, diseased, or broken branches; stimulating flowering and fruiting; rejuvenating and restoring older plants to vigorous growth; preventing damage to life or property; and shaping plants to a pleasing form. Consult your state's Cooperative Extension Service for brochures or Web sites with pruning tips.
Rotate Vegetable Crops
As you order seeds and plan the 2008 vegetable garden, keep in mind that it's important to rotate crops. Each vegetable family is susceptible to certain pests, and if kept in the same place year after year the pest problems will increase. Tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and potatoes are in one group. The other is the cabbage family, including broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, radishes, turnips, and Brussels sprouts. Rotating with beans and peas, which increase nitrogen in the soil, is a good idea.
Check for Frost-Heaved Plants
Periods of freezing temperatures alternating with warmer weather causes shallow plant roots, particularly of perennials, to be heaved out of the ground. It's a good idea to periodically check for this and gently push them back into the soil.