Master Gardener: January gardening chores

At this time of year, our true gardening is done indoors. Taking good care of houseplants affords beautiful plants and, of course, adds oxygen to our indoor living space. Following are some varied hints for houseplants:

You should not be fertilizing houseplants until April. If your plants have dust on their leaves, wash the smooth-leaved plants with a damp sponge, or put them in a shower of warm water to remove dust. Do NOT wipe them with mayonnaise to make the leaves shiny. This blocks their pores. Rotate houseplants each time you water them so they don’t grow in one direction. Once your poinsettia loses its bracts, place it in a cool, bright location and water sparingly until early May. If you note insects on your houseplants, wash the plant, hand pick the insects off the plants, or spray with 1 teaspoon liquid detergent added to 1 quart of lukewarm water. Dying amaryllis flower stalks should be cut back.

Now, if you really want to spend some time outside during some of the milder days of winter, you can read about the characteristics of different conifer trees and then take a walk to see how many you can identify. It is best to avoid walking on frozen lawns that do not have much snow cover. Check trees for snow or ice storm damage, Remove heavy snow from evergreens, but ice coatings on trees should be left to melt naturally. Check tree wraps and guards to make sure they are holding up. Keep bird feeders clean and full. Sunflower seeds or suet give birds high energy, but a bird seed mix will attract a wide variety of birds. A bird bath heater keeps a water source available for our feathered friends during the frigid days of winter.

Now go inside, warm up and watch the birds. Do a bird count of the different winter species that visit your yard. Plan next year’s garden on paper. Pour over the garden catalogs that arrive in the mail. You can even turn on the TV and watch some of the garden shows that make it all look so very easy!