by Leslie Cox; Friday; January 10, 2020

Boy, it is cold outsideI sure hope your weather was better than ours over the last ten days. We had it all: sun, cloud, rain, wind, frost, snow. There were a couple of days when everything was all thrown in for good measure. Nasty.

Of course, the bad weather messed with our chances of getting out in the garden as much as we would have liked so there are still some chores on our To-Do list left over from Week #1. Nothing like falling behind right out of the gate.

Carrying on…I have added the chores to be tackled this week at the bottom of each section.

With that in mind, here is a list of a few chores you can do now for getting into shape and getting a jump start on a brand new season.

In the garden:
   1st week:

  • If you have had any snowfalls, check your trees, shrubs, vines, and evergreen perennials for damage to frozen branches. Repair any broken ones that can be saved by taping the branch back into place. (We use electrical tape for our repairs, with success.) If the branch is seriously torn, use screws to bring the branch into position and then wrap tightly with tape.
  • Keep your bird feeders filled if there is snow on the ground. Otherwise, let the birds forage in your garden for seeds and insects. They are a great help in weed and pest control.
  • Pick up fallen branches and rake any leaves off the lawn and garden beds.
  • Check your hellebores. New flower buds should be appearing. Remove any remaining old or diseased leaves.
  • Check ponds periodically. Remove any decaying leaves to prevent hydrogen sulfide and methane gas levels from building up. Try not to worry about your goldfish…they hibernate quite well under the ice.
  • Start making a list of those projects you have in mind for the garden…an arbour for a climbing vine, repair grape arbour, build a new raised bed, etc.

   2nd week:

  • Hairy bittercress (Cardamine hirsuta)is popping up in the garden…pull these snap weeds when you see them before they throw their seeds.
  • Weather permitting, you can start pruning some of your shrubs and early blooming fruit trees. Roses can be pruned back. Apple, peach and pear trees, as well as grape vines. Prune cedar hedges also, if it is not too windy to be up a ladder. Leave your grasses and other shrubs alone for now

In the vegetable garden:
   1st week:

  • Continue harvesting winter and any root vegetables still in the ground under cover.

   2nd week:

  • Check for any rodent chewing on the exposed shoulders of your carrots, beets and parsnips still in the ground. The frost and snow will have had them out foraging extensively, especially if they can keep warm under the mulch while they feast. If you have room in your fridge, or cold storage, you may want to harvest the rest of those veggies now. They will keep for a few more weeks, or a month yet.

In the greenhouse:

  • Check on the plants you are over-wintering from the elements. Water any that are excessively dry.
  • Check for possible insect infestations or diseases and treat immediately.

In the compost pile:

  • Turn the pile. Cold as it is, this will build up heat and destroy weed seeds.
  • Be sure to cover the pile so rain will not leach out precious nutrients.

In the tool shed:

  • Check over all your gardening equipment, if you have not done so already. Secateurs, pruners and hedgers need sharpening.

   1st week:

  • Check for decay on summer-flowering bulbs you have in storage.
  • Check your over-wintered tender perennials. Remove any leaves that are decaying and inspect plants carefully for aphids or other pests or disease.
  • Indoor plants do not need as much water during the colder months, so beware of over-watering.
  • Order the new seed catalogues from your favourite companies, or peruse them online. Start your garden wish list.
  • Organize your seed inventory. Check dates on seed packets and compare to the Seed Viability Chart. Throw out old packets…or if you are frugal, do germination tests on the older seeds to see if their germination rate is still reasonable. You should aim for a minimum of 40% seed germination. Make a list of the seed varieties you need to buy.

   2nd week:

  • Start yam tubers now. Buy small or medium size ones from the grocery store. Lay them on their side half-buried in a tray, or suitably-sized container, of potting soil. Place the tray on a heat mat and keep the soil moist, but not soaked. Sprouting can take up to a month. Once roots have appeared and formed a cluster at the base of each shoot, carefully cut it away from the main tuber and pot it up. Grow the shoots under lights or on in a sunny windowsill until they can be transplanted outdoors in mid-May.