The following gardening calendar was created using content from two of our favorite gardening reference books: Month by Month Gardening in Wisconsin: What to Do Each Month to Have a Beautiful Garden All Year by Melinda Myers and The Wisconsin Garden Guide – The Complete Guide to Vegetables, Flowers, Herbs, Fruit & Nuts, Lawn & Landscaping, Indoor Gardening by Jerry Minnich.
· Clean up and pack away your lawn mower until next spring. You can either empty the gas tank by running the engine for a few minutes or fill the gas tank with a gas preservative and run the engine for a few minutes to distribute it throughout the gas. Disengage the spark plug wire for safety. Drain and replace the oil. This should be done at least once a year. See owner’s manual for specific instructions. Clean off any dirt and matted grass. Sharpen the blades or make a note to do that before next spring. Buy replacement belts, spark plugs and an air filter as needed and store them for spring.
· Apply deicing compounds down the middle of walks and drives, avoiding the grass. Use a deicing compound such as ‘Ice No Mor’ ice melt which contains AMC, the catalyst that ignites ice melting power, and calcium chloride for fast melting action. It is safe for both concrete and surrounding vegetation when used as directed and is even dyed blue for easy application and increased visibility. It works so fast it doesn’t leave a chalky residue to track indoors, which can potentially cause damage to carpets and flooring. Always read and follow label directions.
· If using regular deicing salt, shovel before applying it to reduce the amount needed to control ice on walks and drives. It also eliminates salt-laden snow from ending up on the lawn. Note the lawn areas most affected by deicing salts. You will want to water these areas in spring to dilute the salts and wash them through the soil.
· Add holiday lights to trees and shrubs in the winter landscape; always use lights made for outdoor use. Loosely drape lights over branches and trunks or loosely secure lights to stems. Remove lights in spring before growth begins as tightly wrapped lights can girdle a tree in one season. Use a sturdy ladder and work with another person.
· Continue to check trees for and destroy egg masses of tent caterpillars, tussock moths and gypsy moths.
· Start planning for next season. No plan would be complete without a wish list of new bulbs, tools, books and materials needed for next season. These all make great holiday gifts to give and receive.
· Grab a cup of tea, coffee, or eggnog and your garden journal and take a few minutes to review the season. Make sure your garden records are up to date. Record the varieties grown, source, and success rates. Revise your garden plan to reflect what you did should it vary from what you planned.
· Store fertilizers for the winter. Keep granular fertilizers in a cool, dry place. Liquids should be stored in a cool (above freezing), dark location.
· Store pesticides in a secure location out of the reach of children and pets. Store granules and powders in a cool, dry location. Keep liquids in a cool (above freezing), dark location. Make a note of old products you no longer use. Watch for community clean-sweep programs next spring. These programs collect and dispose of old pesticides.
· Secure animal fencing around trees and shrubs. Continue applying repellants to areas and plants frequently browsed by animals. Reapply after harsh weather and as recommended by the label directions.
· Continue dormant pruning on summer and fall blooming shrubs. Once the snow falls, limit your pruning to repair damage.
· Prune trees in winter to repair damage and improve structure. Wait until spring to do the majority of evergreen pruning. You can remove large branches that block walks and drives. These can then be used for holiday decorations.
· Prune off a few branches of red twig dogwood (shown right), juniper, winterberry, arborvitae, and yews. Add these to your indoor or outdoor holiday décor.
· Check on plants stored in the basement. The stems should be firm but dormant. Move them to a cooler, dark location if they start to grow. If growth continues, pot them up and move them to a sunny window or under artificial lights.
· Check stored bulbs monthly for signs of rot and disease. Discard infested bulbs immediately.
· Continue to care for annuals and tropicals, such as hibiscus, that are growing indoors for the winter. Keep them out of drafts and in the brightest location possible.
· Water indoor houseplants whenever the top few inches of soil start to dry. Apply enough water so that the excess runs out the bottom. Pour off any water that collects in the saucer. Apply a dilute solution of any flowering houseplant fertilizer to plants that are actively growing.
· Continue to check plants for signs of whiteflies, mites and aphids.
· Drain and store outdoor hoses for winter.
· Complete winter protection of your roses after a week of freezing temperatures. Check on winter protection already in place. Make sure rose cones and mulches are secure. Prune your roses only enough to apply winter protection such as rose cones. The rose canes need to be short enough to fit under their protective covering, but long enough to increase winter survival.
· Check roses growing in containers in winter storage. Water these roses anytime the soil is dry and not frozen.
· Gladiolus corms (shown right) should be stored in a cool, dark, well-ventilated place. Ideal temperature is 40° F.
· Keep an eye on vegetables stored in the root cellar. Remove any showing signs of rot.
· Start a windowsill garden. Leafy crops such as lettuce grow well in the low light indoors. Mix in miniature carrots for some zing. Onions, parsley, basil, chives and other herbs are always good suggestions for indoor gardens.
· Poinsettias purchased now will keep their brightly colored red, pink, white, or spotted bracts through January and well into the second half of winter.
· Cyclamen (shown below) is one of the brightest and most free blooming of holiday plants. With bright light, cool temperatures, ample fertilizer, and plenty of water, blooming will continue into April.
· Keep exercising and stretching to keep those planting muscles toned until spring returns.
· Do not worry if you have waited too long and the snow has buried all your good intentions. Wait until the first thaw or spring to finish garden cleanup.
· Use evergreen branches, straw or marsh hay for winter mulch. These will protect tender perennials, like European Ginger, and prevent frost heaving. Evergreen vines, such as Euonymus, often suffer leaf burn from winter winds.
· Use your discarded live Christmas tree to create shade and windbreaks for tender vines and perennials.
· Use dried flowers from your garden to decorate gift packages and cards.
· Make a list of materials needed for your seed starting endeavor including seeds, flats, containers and other supplies.
· This is a good time to air layer Dieffenbachia, rubber plants, dracaena, and other thick-stemmed houseplants.
· Geraniums may be cut back and repotted in preparation for spring.
· Try forcing amaryllis and paperwhites (shown right) for indoor bloom. These bulbs do not need a cold treatment and are easy to force.
Minnich, Jerry. The Wisconsin Garden Guide – The Complete Guide to Vegetables, Flowers, Herbs, Fruit, & Nuts, Lawn & Landscaping, Indoor Gardening. 3rd ed. Madison: Prairie Oak, 1995. Print.
Myers, Melinda. Month by Month Gardening in Wisconsin: What to Do Each Month to Have a Beautiful Garden All Year. Franklin: Cool Springs, 2006. Print.