- Nothing to cut, so enjoy the break!
- Watch for vole activity. These rodents scurry beneath the snow eating seeds, chewing on bark, and wearing trails in the lawn. Be prepared to do a little raking and overseeding in the spring.
- Do not shake or brush frozen snow off your plants. This can cause more damage than if the snow was left in place.
- Check on geraniums that you are storing in the basement or other cool, dark location for the winter. Plant any that have started growing. Move them to a warm, sunny location and treat them as you would your other houseplants.
- Adjust your watering schedule to match the needs of coleus, geraniums, fuchsias, and other annuals overwintered as houseplants. The shorter days, less intense sunlight, and low humidity of winter changes the plants’ needs. Water the soil thoroughly and wait until the soil is slightly dry before watering again.
- Apply winter mulch after the ground freezes. Some years the ground freezes by Thanksgiving, while other years it does not freeze until January. The goal is to prevent temperature extremes caused by winter thaws and fluctuating spring temperatures –not to keep the soil warm.
- Check roses and make sure winter protection is secure. Locate and replace any rose shelters, rose cones, or mulch that may have blown away during storm. Vent rose cones on sunny days or during warm spells.
- Check outdoor roses for signs of animal damage. Rabbits, deer and voles are major problems. Properly covered roses should be safe from rabbits and deer. Try repellants on uncovered roses that are suffering damage.
- Monitor the health and growing conditions of miniature roses, tree roses and tropical plants that you are overwintering indoors. Keep plants in a cool room in front of a sunny window. Place plants on a pebble tray to increase humidity and eliminate the need to pour excess water out of the saucer. As you water plants thoroughly, the excess will collect in the pebbles, allowing the pot to sit on the pebbles and not in the water. As the water evaporates it will increase the humidity around the plants.
- Check indoor plants for signs of mites and aphids. These insects suck out the plant juices, causing the leaves to be speckled, yellow and stunted. Cover the pot with a plastic bag. Place plants in the shower and rinse with clear water. This helps dislodge many of the insects. Then spray the upper and lower leaf surfaces with insecticidal soap. This soap is effective at killing the soft-bodied insects, such as aphids and mites, but it is safe for the plant. Repeat once a week as needed. You will probably need at least two to four applications to keep these pests under control.
- Enjoy the seed pods, form and winter interest provided by your perennials. Note areas that need a little lift. Perhaps you need a few more perennials or the addition of dwarf conifers, small trees or ornamental shrubs.
- Check on non-hardy bulbs tucked away for winter storage. Discard any soft, discolored or rotting bulbs. Move sprouting bulbs to a cooler (45° to 50° F), dark location.
- Now is the time to prepare your light setup for starting annual seedlings indoors. Select an out-of-the-way area that will not be forgotten with a nearby power source. Purchase a seed starting system or build your own. Clean flats and trays for seed sowing. Buy seed starting soil medium.
- It’s time to plan this year’s vegetable garden. Get the whole family involved; gather the family and review last year’s harvest. Make a list of all the vegetables you want to grow again Spend an afternoon with your seed catalogs and plot your annual flower gardens, too. Find a few new fun things to try in this year’s garden.
- Monitor plants for fungus gnats, mites, aphids, and whiteflies. Fungus gnats are the little fruit fly-like insects that can be seen flitting around your plants. Keep the soil slightly drier to reduce their populations. These are not harmful to the plants – just a nuisance to you. Aphids, which are small, teardrop shaped insects, can weaken plants. Treat outbreaks with insecticidal soap. You may need several applications. Try catching fungus gnats and whiteflies with yellow sticky traps placed near the plants or stuck into the soil.
- Keep pinching back leggy geraniums, coleus, impatiens, and other annuals that you are overwintering as houseplants. Remove the growing tips or pinch stems back to just above a set of healthy leaves. This encourages branching and stouter stems.
- Start pansy seeds to have large transplants ready for your early spring garden.
- Check ornamental plums and cherries for Eastern tent caterpillar egg masses (shown above). The eggs look like a shiny glob of mud on the stem. Prune and destroy all that are found.
- Watch for black rot cankers on plums and cherries. This fungal disease causes branches to swell, turn black and crack open, releasing infected spores. Prune out infected branches below the swollen areas. Burn or bury cankered branches to reduce future infections.
- Check the base of viburnum, euonymus and spirea stems for round, swollen growths called galls. These galls eventually girdle and kill the stem. Prune out infected stems below the gall and discard. Disinfect your tools between cuts with rubbing alcohol or a solution of one-part bleach to nine parts water. It is much easier to see the overall shape of the tree and what needs to be removed. Wait until early summer when the weather is dry to prune honey locust trees.
- Look for areas in your yard that would benefit from the addition of trees and shrubs. They can provide screening, seasonal interest, shade and windbreaks. Avoid planting too close to buildings, power lines and other utilities. Select trees and shrubs best suited for your landscape.
- Prune oaks in winter to reduce disease problems.
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.