Gardening by the Month
January is a great time to check your soil. Send samples to Clemson Extension or ask your local garden center for help. There are several soil testing kits on the market now for those ‘do-it-yourselfers’ who prefer to really get their hands dirty.
Trees & Shrubs
Plant fruit trees, crepe myrtle, abelia, red bud, dogwood, viburnum, eponymous, mahonia and althea. (Pink dogwood rarely does well here). Plant wisteria in sunny location, plan to prune often.
Fertilize, remove smaller bud (when there are 2 together) and “gib” if you plan to show blooms in upcoming shows.
Enjoy those seed catalogs and visiting garden centers for the planning of your Spring & Summer gardens. You can sow seeds of larkspur, poppy and dill for spring flowers. After sprinkling seeds over a well prepared bed, water gently so seeds wash into soil crevices. Do not mulch, they need the warmth of the sun to ‘hatch’. Sow tomato, pepper and eggplant seeds in hot beds now. As for vegetables – plant asparagus, beets, cabbage, lettuce, onions, peas, radishes and turnips. (Start collecting new recipes so at harvest time you have a fresh crop and new menu ideas!)
Keep varieties of seeds available in feeders, along with suet, corn and other treats. Clean bird baths of debris, add fresh water at least twice weekly.
Cut liriope to ground level with mower or hedge shears before new shorts emerge. Pampas grass should be pruned about 6 inches from the ground and debris removed.
Take soil samples and test for correct fertilizer. When new growth starts fertilize according to directions.
Plant ajuga, English ivy, and periwinkle so they will be well established before summer. Remember these are aggressive growers and will wander relentlessly throughout the garden.
Trees & Shrubs
Plant bare-rooted and balled/burlap trees before new growth starts. Spray fruit trees and azaleas before buds open. Fertilize camellias when finished blooming, but do not cultivate soil as roots are shallow. Prune nandina, cutting out 1/3 of the canes each year to insure fullness. Prune spring flowering shrubs after they have finished blooming.
For hybrid tea and floribunda roses, most people prefer to prune in early spring when new growth is beginning, but before the leaves start to expand. Moisten ground before applying about 2 inches of mulch, but keep it clear of stems.
You can expect “Jack’s Threat” to leave our area around March 10th-but there are always exceptions. Rule of thumb here: ‘When the pecan trees bud, it is safe to plant.’
Plant Centipede in the sun and St. Augustine in the shade. Do not plant Bahia – it is not conducive to this area. Rake leaves (some more!) and start a new compost heap. Fertilize now with appropriate combination for your yard.
They should be coming up in your spring garden. Snap flowers off near their base; put them in water 24 hours before combining them with other flowers. (The sap can harm other types of cut flowers). Lightly fertilize while they bloom.
Vegetable & Flower Gardens
Plant beans, cukes, cantaloupe, corn, peas, squash and watermelon. And look for easy to grow annuals to liven up the flower beds. New varieties should be available at your local garden centers. Plant those gladiolas; you’ll be ‘glad’ you did!
It’s time to cautiously move them outside in semi-shade. They may need to be repotted and trimmed back in anticipation of new growth.
Continue raking (don’t we love this chore?). Water if necessary. A few weeks after your warm season lawn turns green apply about one pound of nitrogen per 1000 feet of lawn. This will encourage growth and allow you to start mowing again!
Flowers & Vegetables
Feed with a complete fertilizer such as 10-10-10. Spray with Malathion or Volck Oil Spray for protection. And consider using a slow release granular fertilizer when preparing soil for planting. In the vegetable patch, fertilize and plant okra and sweet potatoes. Plant vinca major – periwinkle, (minor doesn’t do well here)
After Easter Lilies fade and leaves fall, allow soil to dry, then plant in your garden. Cover with heavy mulch from fall until spring. Although they won’t bloom for Easter next year, you will have white lilies in late spring or early summer. Plant spider lilies and other tender lilies now.
Lightly fertilize, after foliage dies down let it dry before removing from plant.
Mulch & Prune
Replace old mulch around camellias and azaleas to prevent insect & fungus growth. Prune out any sickly or dead growth from shrubs now.
Start planting hanging baskets and window boxes now. Look for the water soluble granules to add to soil where drying conditions are most common. When planning these containers remember to plant like specimens (shade lovers together, sun basking varieties together). Consider containers with succulent varieties – utilizing strawberry planters with those little pockets. Well drained soil with gravel is mandatory when planting succulents.
Plant caladiums and divide iris if necessary. Consider planting iris around your fish pond if you have one, and accent with a specimen rock. The contrast of sword like fronds, craggy rock and smooth water is quite striking.
Plant sweet potatoes, tomatoes and peppers. Mulch beds lightly to discourage weeds and help keep soil moist. To keep cutworms from fragile young tomatoes, put collars around each plant partially buried about 2 inches. Cutworms tend to be in the upper two inches of soil. Continue planting those vegetables you enjoy most. Companion planting with marigolds and society garlic will help offset pests.
Look for “French Tarragon” for best flavor, or substitute Mexican mint marigold for variety. Scatter rocks and accent pieces among the herb plants for visual effect and interest. When among your herbs, take time to pinch leaves and enjoy the mingling aromas.
The secret to enjoying your perennials is planting them in small clumps in combinations with other perennials. Reds make the garden seem larger, blues make it seem smaller and further away. Fertilize with an all-purpose 20-20-20 water soluble plant food.
Thin out grass by de-thatching if needed, after the lawn has fully recovered from dormancy (no later than July 1st). Fertilize according to soil test results.
Plant dahlias this month and feed amaryllis after blooming.
Cut back new growth for bushier plants. Feed monthly and spray with fungicide.
Pull out spring vegetables that have passed their prime, turn soil. Plant seeds of summer crops such as beans, squash, okra and cukes. Fertilize tomatoes and keep harvesting, while checking for pests
Shape and train eponymous, forsythia, privet. Root cuttings of azaleas, camellias, pittosporum etc. Feed and dust roses.
Seeds may be planted now. Centipede takes two months to germinate. Do not leave lawn clippings on grass. Treat brown patches with proper fungicide. The most damaging mowing is extreme and sudden reduction in height.
Sow seeds of zinnias, cosmos, sunflowers and cleome. After seedlings are about 2” tall thin them out and transplant elsewhere.
Plant autumn blooming bulbs now. Stake and disbud dahlias. Feed lightly.
Start your “Jack O’ Lantern” patch now, putting three seeds in a mound, in a sunny location. Continue to harvest vegetables, removing any deformed or over-ripe fruits. Young tender specimens are the best in taste and nutritional value.
You’ve probably harvested just about all you can, and as the plants wither in the heat of our low country ‘dog days’ of summer, it’s time to dig under and prepare for fall planting.
Some specimens have ‘retired ‘ for the summer and can be removed from the garden, or cut back. You can sow seeds for perennials such as purple cornflowers and Shasta daisies now. Mums that have been pruned earlier should be getting ready to put on a show as weather starts to cool.
Continue to plant grass seed, sprigs or sod. Keep watered. Raise the cutting height of the lawn mower an inch to help with the hot dry weather.
Hard to believe – but it’s time to consider ordering yours!
It is time to plant leafy greens in the vegetable garden, as well as in bare spots of your flowerbeds. Use seeds or transplants of lettuce, mustard, kale, spinach, turnips, cabbage or collards. And consider other seeds for cool weather vegetables, such as beans, beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, Chinese cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, edible pea pods, cucumbers, field peas and squash.
Tidy up your garden plots by pulling up tired annuals and cutting back ragged perennials. They, like us, most likely have ‘heat exhaustion’ from the humid weather of our Low Country summer! Mulch or fill areas with marigolds or mums, which will provide lively color in your autumn garden. Pansies will be available in a few weeks at our local garden centers, keep places in mind for their darling faces to shine in your yard. Disbud camellias and keep spraying for insects.
Patch bare spots with grass seed, sprigs or sod.
Preserve your herbs for winter use. Dry trimmings by hanging upside down in well-ventilated locations. Process basil in food processor with some vegetable oil and freeze. Try freezing springs of fresh dill, oregano, mint etc., in ice cubes, store in freezer in Ziploc bags for quick fresh additions to meals throughout the next few months.
As with herbs, think about drying items for bouquets.
Use pine needles and ground up leaves, plentiful at this time of year, as a good organic mulch topping. It will keep soil moist and weeds down while decomposing slowly and adding nutrients to your soil.
Plan on dividing established plants to give them space. Remember to replant at the same depth.
Set out cool weather annuals this month. Pansies, violas, snapdragons, nasturtiums, sweet alyssum, English daisies and calendulas enjoy this time of year, and will make a colorful show in the garden. New specimens may be available at your garden center – look for them.
Dig bulbs before first frost – store narcissus and tulips in vegetable crisper for next 8 weeks (label container and date calendar for reminder). Caladium bulbs should be cleaned, dipped in binomial fungicide and stored in a cool dry place away from sunlight.
Give grass a final cutting. (Aren’t you ready to let this job go for a while?). Feed established lawns no later than mid-October. Water thoroughly after application.
Those lucky houseplants that have summered outside should be brought in after evening temperatures fall below 55 degrees. Clean pots, check for bugs and remove damaged foliage.
“Jack Frost” arrives this month, around November 16th. Not only will he be ‘nipping at your nose as the song goes’, but you should be prepare for his arrival by mulching plants that need ‘nip’ protection. Water just before and after frost to minimize damage to foliage.
In anticipation of another garden, use leaves, pine needles, and other organic material in a 6-8 inch layer in the area you plan to plant. This ‘blanket’ will kill the grass and after several weeks can be turned into the soil to help build up the nutrients and texture for spring planting.
If you have a fish pond, it is time to remove fallen leaves that have settled into the pond. They rob the water of oxygen as they decompose. Fish should be able to ‘overwinter’ in the pond. Feed sparingly as they will go semi dormant during this time.
Rake debris from grass, lawns need light to survive.
Transplant to pots any cool sensitive plants that can winter over inside.
Spray for flower blight and tea scale. To prevent blight from spreading, spray flowers with binomial every 3 days, and discard dropped flowers. After plant has flowered, replace old mulch.
Divide and transplant amaryllis. Pot bulbs for winter house plants. After cannas die, cut off at ground level.
Christmas trees that have been cut will benefit from having a couple of additional inches sawed off their trunks to open water channels clogged by sap. Keep trees in water, check often and replenish when necessary. Consider buying live trees if your yard could use a leafy evergreen specimen.
When pruning hollies and other evergreens, think of using branches for holiday decorating (two uses – one cutting).
To make gift plants more festive, plant in larger pot and combine with miniature ivy and Dallas ferns. Try adding Spanish moss and pinecones as accents. Add tiny envelopes of seeds from your garden to your holiday cards. Remember poinsettias like a sunny location with 60-70 degrees temps and uniform moisture.
They make great gifts, and can be planted soon. (Tulips and other spring flowering bulbs are available now).
Plant asparagus, cabbage, beets, carrots and lettuce now. Clean and oil garden tools, and have lawn mower serviced
Damage to camellias & azaleas may not show up until after spring. A few weeks after freeze, scratch bark of evergreens & prune back to live healthy wood.