garden compositions — fun things to do on a winter’s day
By Barbara Wise
Mention a list of fun things to do in front of my sons and you might get groans of dismay. Saturday mornings and summer breaks find them greeted most mornings with a yummy breakfast and their own personalized list of fun things to do for the day. This detailed list includes activities such as, “Pick up dirty clothes, dust your room, complete your laundry, mow the grass, etc.”—so now you understand the aforementioned groans.
Why, you may ask, would a loving mom use such false advertising in getting tasks accomplished? Maybe because the fun is in the reward at the end—the joy of walking across a bedroom without breaking your neck, the opportunity to actually see our wiener dogs as they romp through the grass, or even the promised trip to the movies when all is finished.
So, I’m taking advantage of this media forum here to give my readers their own list of gardening fun things to do on any winter day. Put on a jacket, some warm gloves, and maybe even get some of those toe warmer packets to get the jobs done. The reward this spring will be worth the all the fun!
fun things to do
Clean your tools and sharpen the blades on your pruners and shears. I use Krud Kutter Original Formula and fine steel wool to clean off most of my tools, then go over them with a few drops of lubricating oil rubbed on with another piece of steel wool before putting them neatly back in their storage area. (Sorry, the mom in me is hard to turn off.)
Put a light layer of pine fines, pine straw, or shredded leaves over any bulbs that popped up during those random warm days this fall.
If you are reading this in February, this is the time you want to be putting out your pre-emergent herbicide to deal with all those pesky weeds. Look for products like Surflan (which can be mixed with Round-up to deal with existing weeds) or Treflan®.
If you like to grow annuals from seed you can start them indoors at this time. Check your local nursery center for seeds and seed kits.
Planning on doing some major landscaping? This is the best time to get together with landscape designers for plans. Take lots of pictures of the areas that you want to landscape and note the sun positions (remember that the sun positions will change by summer and note any deciduous trees that will add shade.)
Prune back any perennials that you left standing in the fall. By fall you can cut back grasses to about 6 inches and liriope to about 1 inch.
In February prune back shrubs that bloom in the summer or fall such as butterfly bush and prune off any evergreen shrubs that have been damaged by winter weather. Prune deciduous trees that do not bloom in the spring.
This is a good time to remove dead trees and shrubs and replace them with new ones or transplanted ones.
Walk around your yard to see if any bulbs or plants planted in the fall have been heaved out of the ground from freezing and thawing and gently replant. Add an inch or two of mulch for protection.
Sign up for the Master Gardener course in your county. Call your agricultural extension office for information or visit www.utextension.utk.edu/offices/ to locate your local office. For more information about the Master Gardener program visit http://mastergardener.tennessee.edu.
Visit local nurseries to see what they have growing in the greenhouse. Mary’s Greenhouse in McMinnville, Mouse Creek Nursery and Perennial Farm in Riceville, and Randolph’s Greenhouses in Jackson, Tennessee are a few road trips worth taking.
Head to Cheekwood, and the two UT test gardens (one in Knoxville on campus, one in Jackson up the road from Randolph Greenhouses) to check out what you can plant for winter interest. All three have a wonderful array of different varieties—deciduous and evergreen trees and shrubs, perennial, and annual plants. Take your camera and a notebook—this is an untapped resource for gathering ideas and information.
After you’ve worked so hard outdoors, gather up in front of the fire with all your plant catalogs and magazines and start reading about what’s new for this year. Some of my favorite catalogs worth reading from cover to cover are “Plant Delights” (www.plantdelights.com, “Bluestone Perennial” (www.blue stoneperennials.com), “White Flower Farm” (www.WhiteFlowerFarm.com), and “Brent and Becky’s Bulbs” (www.brentandbeckysbulbs. com). These magazines always stay on my coffee table to provide inspiration: Tennessee Gardener, Horticulture, Fine Gardening, Garden Gate, and Greater Nashville House & Home & Garden™.
With so many fun things to do, and so short a winter’s day, I’ll leave you with a quote from one of my favorite gardening authors: “Now, nobody imagines his modest little patch is going to be the greatest thing since copper bracelets, no. But it will be personal, and it will be fascinating, because there is no such thing as dullness when the gardener is going full steam ahead and damn the torpedoes, as it were.”—Henry Mitchell in The Essential Earthman
Editor’s Note: Barbara Wise, a horticulturist with Southern Land Company, brings her gardening expertise and experience to readers of House & Home & Garden™. E-mail your questions to her at barbara.wise@southernland. com.