MMG January 2021

January is usually spent recovering from the holidays and taking down decorations. In the gardening world it’s a time to really get to know your garden, to plan for next year and to dream what could be. Like everyone, you’ve tried plants and they either were a great success or a complete failure. But there’s always surprises.  So this month, let’s mix it up by exploring and learning something along the way.  


You should have been getting seed, nursery and bulb catalogues. If not, order those right now. It’s best to buy seeds early because many times the one seed you want may be sold out by the time you make up your mind. Look at sources online or visit a local botanic garden for ideas. Our Chicago Botanic Garden has so much information on the best annuals, perennials, grasses, trees and shrubs for our area. That advice will help you make good decisions on how to buy or care for plants. Take a walk through the Chicago Botanic Garden to get ideas. In winter it is easier to notice the “bones” or structure (trees, shrubs, garden beds, arbors, walkways, garden ornaments) which is the starting point for any garden, then incorporate those elements into your own. By taking time to learn about gardening you can be even more successful. 

Recycling live Christmas Trees

If you’ve put up a live Christmas tree you can recycle it in several ways. There is a whole article in the January 2021 issue with ideas!


When clearing driveways or walks try to distribute the snow loads equally so garden beds, shrubs and trees aren’t damaged. Use only a potassium or calcium based product on walkways to prevent slippery surfaces BUT make sure you put it down after you have shoveled. Sand (in moderation) is another good alternative to any sodium based product. Salt based products harm not only garden beds but also pets and wildlife. Just remember whatever product you use will be thrown onto your beds or lawn along with the snow the next time you shovel.

Monitoring your Garden

Continue to take walks around your garden throughout the winter even when there is snow on the ground.  You can then see any signs of damage from animals such as rabbits or deer. A sure sign of voles is tunnels in the snow which means the voles are eating the base of your plants.  Clear off heavy snow on evergreens and shrubs so branches don’t bend so badly they break off.  Also clear away any broken or fallen branches in the yard. 


It is NOT time to prune your trees or shrubs. We haven’t had enough freezing temperatures for trees or shrubs to go dormant, so hold off until possibly February or March.

Indoor Plant Care 

Most houseplants require less water and very little fertilizer because of slow growth during this semi-dormant winter time. You will know when to water by putting your finger into the soil to test for dryness or if you notice leaves drooping. Don’t allow plants to sit in water. After watering thoroughly allow time for dripping then throw away excess water in the trays. Monitor for pests, such as spider mites, scale, mealybugs, whitefly and fungus gnats. Eliminate the problem immediately. New plants or plants brought indoors from outside should be isolated before bringing them in contact with your regular houseplants to prevent pest problems.

Seed Starting

While it’s not time to start seeds, it is time to check out your seed starting equipment. Look at your light system, heating elements, seed trays, starter soil, transplant containers, etc. Repair or replace as needed so everything is ready to go. 

Tools & Equipment

If you haven’t already sharpened, cleaned, repaired or replaced tools or equipment you have lots of indoor time to do it now.