What to Do in January Gardening
Nature reflects the color of the spirit. Beauty is not confined to season nor to region. The gardens of Georgia or of Florida are perpetually in bloom, but are they more beautiful than northern gardens in winter, where imagination sorts the beautiful tracery of tree branches into designs few artists have approached in their delineation of Nature? Are the Alps grander than the Rockies; who can judge?
Reading of gardens is next best to working in them. Tulips now bloom in the Holland of our books; the perennial borders are what we hoped they would be all summer; the gardens of the seed catalogs anticipate all sorts of new flowers larger, more fragrant, and with colors of superior brilliance. Let us work, then, to make our winter visions come true next year, reading, seeing and planning.
WATERING plants in winter is a rather exacting operation. Those growing actively should have the most water, whereas those which are resting can get along with very little.
Humidity. Plants like a high relative humidity, and there are many ways to attain it. The home gardener who aspires to good house plants should have some sort of humidifier installed.
Glazed Pots. Massachusetts State College, has found that the ordinary clay flower pot absorbs a great share of the moisture which we give to our plants, so that the soil in the pot is quite dry at the bottom, the very place where the feeding roots should be located.
He tells us that the old notion that the plants get air thru the pores of the pot is erroneous. His experiments show that plants grow much better when grown in glazed pots, pots which are given a thick coating of paint, or paper pots which have been treated with some substance. The usual paper pot decays readily and takes a good share of nitrogen from the soil. Consequently, the paper should be treated with varnish, lacquer, or bakelite, and the plants given additional nitrogen in the form of ammonium sulphate (1 ounce to 1 gallon of water), nitrate of soda, or some similar substance.
House-Plants You’ll Like: Philodendron, a vine which grows in either sun or shade, and with too little or too much water. English Ivy, almost as tolerant as the Philodendron, and graceful when trained over a window; it can also be grown in an ordinary vase of water without soil. Dracaenas may be purchased from the florist, and are found in so many different varieties and species. They all like a loose soil, containing sand and charcoal. Ferns grow best in a soil made from decayed sod or good garden soil with leafmold added. They enjoy an abundance of water, but be sure they do not have wet feet, and do not grow them in full sun.
Poinsettia plants received at Christmas time may be kept in good condition by maintaining a constant temperature. Never place them in a room where there is a breeze. As the plants appear shabby, water can be withheld so that the pots become quite dry, after which they can be placed in the basement until May or June, and grown another year, after they have been pruned and planted in the spring.
Bulbs. Bring up to a light, cool place of about 50 degrees such bulbs as early tulips, hyacinths, and narcissus. For growing bulbs indoors.
To force rhubarb, dig some clumps of roots now, plant in a box, and store in a warm cellar with some light.
Chicory, sometimes called French Endive, can be forced into good growth in a warm cellar. Did you ever try keeping a pot of parsley in the house?
In the garage. Take a look at stored tubers and bulbs to make sure they are in proper condition and not too dry. Many of the roots when not stored in soil or peatmoss become very dry, and it may be well even at this late date to place them in moist, but not wet, sand, peatmoss, or soil. If, on the other hand, you note decay in these bulbs, it is no doubt due to too wet conditions, and it is well to remove the bulbs and store them in drier conditions, perhaps cutting out the rot and dusting the cut surface with dusting sulphur or some of the new formaldehyde dust which has recently come on the market.
Tools. Go over all tools. Paint all metal parts to help prevent rust. Some people in the past have used a deep box filled with sand over which old crankcase oil is poured. Tools are thrust into this oily sand, thereby cleaning them and preventing rust.
Books. Many authors put the experience of a lifetime in a book. And some of them sell their souls for a 20 dollars. Don’t neglect to read several good garden books during January.
Book of the Month—is the seed catalog. Now is the time for all good men, women, and children to send for their seed catalogs and to begin making out and sending off lists of seeds.
Garden Plans. You don’t have to be able to draw a pretty picture to make garden plans. A good many of them should be in your mind, with merely a few notes jotted down, but if you have the problem of landscaping your home grounds for the first time, go to our design section one left.
Spraying fruit trees and shrubs for scale should be done sometime this winter.
Trees and Evergreens. It is fun to be able to call evergreens and trees correct names. We want to call our neighbors by their names and not refer to them as the neighbors who live next door.
Pruning Trees. Study the architecture of your trees. Now is the time to prune out such branches as are going in the wrong direction, as well as those which are diseased or dead.
Parasols vs. Overcoats. Let’s be sure we remember why we protect plants. We do not protect them to prevent them from freezing.
Hardwood cutting of shrubs may be made this month. Select long, willowy branches from your goldenbells, weigela, deutzia, privet, mockorange, tamarix. Cut them into 8-inch lengths and bury them in a box of moist sand or peatmoss. When spring arrives many of them will have rooted.
Birds are singing neighbors.
Pie Crust. The meat-eating birds will enjoy pie-crust crumbs more than ordinary bread crumbs because they contain fats. Religiously save your discarded pie crusts for the feathered friends.
For winter bouquets, cut branches of Forsythia, Pussy Willow, deutzia, wisteria, lilac, apple, peach, or pear and bring them into the house. Keep the branches dampened by frequent spraying and place the ends in water.
Garden Walk. Walk round the garden today. You are sure to find some perennials which need to be pushed back into the soil, some spot where the mulch has blown away, some small tree that needs staking, as well as something to delight you.
Snow is one of the best winter protections. The French always call it “poor man’s manure” because it takes nitrogen from the air and gives it to the soil. Heavy snow permanently injures some types of evergreens. Before the snow has a chance to turn to ice, shake it from the evergreens.
Frozen Ground. Now that the ground is frozen you may be able to get for your rock garden certain large rocks difficult to get in spring when you cannot drive upon the soggy soil.
The West Coast
ROSES. Field-grown roses with bare roots should be planted from January to March in the Los Angeles territory. A good application of dry lime and sulphur in January, while roses are dormant, is a good control for mildew.
Gladiolus. For a succession of bloom, continue to plant gladiolus every few weeks from now until June.
Vegetables. For the home garden, vegetable seeds may be planted this month. It’s a good time to set out rhubarb roots.
Sow this month your last planting of Winter Flowering Sweet Peas, wild-flowers, Ranunculus, annual poppies, California-poppies, Sweet Alyssum, snapdragons, Scabiosa, larkspur, calendula, mignonette, annual chrysanthemums, Nigella, calliopsis, candytuft, Centaureas, Cinerarias, and lawn grasses.
Transplanting Perennials. A number of perennials can be transplanted into the border this month, including pansies, foxgloves, Canterbury bells, Columbine, Shasta Daisy.
Plant Bulbs. Many cape bulbs can be transplanted.
Trees and Shrubs. Deciduous shrubs and trees and also evergreens, dug from the open ground, can be transplanted anytime now. Wait until late spring or early summer to move palms and bamboos.
Be sure to include the Sweet Broom (Cytisus fragrans), which will be covered with white bloom in early spring and summer; the Grevillea thelemanniana, an Australian plant with scarlet flowers and fine-cut foliage; Plumbago capensis, which is always admired for its clear blue flowers. It can be trained as a low bush, or as a climber.
Lilies. Around San Diego, the Japanese Lilies—Lilium rubrum, tigrinum, and auratum—do particularly well in soils which are well drained. Remember that these three lilies produce roots above the bulbs and should therefore be planted at least 8 inches deep.
SEE the notes of the West Coast, as most of the same directions apply.
Perennial Phlox. This is a good time to transplant and divide the perennial phlox, for clumps more than 4 years old are seldom successful.
Vegetables. You can set out hardy sorts. Tomatoes may be sown in the hotbed with just a little heat.
Sweet Potatoes. Set out Sweet Potatoes in a coldframe, using sandy soil.
Spading. The New Orleans Garden Society suggests that the beds be spaded so that the clods may be mellowed by the frost. For conquering a stubborn soil.
Cuttings. You can make cuttings of crapemyrtle, butterflybush (Buddleia), skyflower (Duranta), Shrub-althea (Hibiscus) box, roses, privet, and hydrangea.
Blooming in January. In the neighborhood of New Orleans, the following plants are in bloom; Camellia, Sweet Olive (Osmanthus fragrans), peaches, snowflake (Leucojum), flowering-quince, larkspur, phlox, and Sweet Alyssum.
Roses. The following list is suggested by American Rose Society: Alexander Hill Gray, Angele Pernet, Climbing Radiance, Dame Edith Helen, Dr. Huey, Dr. W. Van Fleet, Emily Gray, Excelsa, Frau Karl Druschki, General Jacqueminot, Her-mosa, Mme. Butterfly, Mermaid, Ophelia, Paul’s Scarlet Climber, Rev. F. Page-Roberts, Scorcher, Sweet Sixteen.
Layer Roses. The easiest way to increase your roses is to bend the branches down; make a deep cut into the branch, and cover the wounded portion with soil. To hold the branch down it may be necessary to use a strong wire like a hairpin, or a stone.
Demossing. Before the buds on the deciduous trees begin to swell, it would be well to remove a good deal of southern moss, as it will be easier to remove it this season of the year.
Figs. Prune figs this month after a heavy frost. They are usually pruned quite severely, and the wounds should always be painted with asphaltum paint or white lead. Plant food rich in phosphoric acid prevents the fruits from dropping before they are ripe, improves the flavor, and makes the meat more firm. The plant food is best applied about 2 feet from the tree. Circle it with a shallow trench, and apply 1 pound of superphosphate for each year of the tree’s growth. It’s slow to become available, so that it is well to make applications in January, in which case the food will still be useful as late as May.