It’s the dead of winter and a great time of year for gardeners! What’s great about winter you ask? I’ll get to that in a minute. First, a weather update for central Virginia…
Sometimes it’s actually cold here, haha! It’s raining snow outside right now as we had a little thundersnow storm that left us with a pretty 3 inches or so. Temps are rising so the frostys (snowmen) the neighborhood kids have made are melting before their eyes. Thunder, lighting, and snow all at once is unusual to say the least. I would have loved to be looking at a bit more of the white stuff, but many ’round here don’t share that sentiment. Plenty of winter left for another! I’ll keep my fingers crossed!
What’s great about winter in the garden? January and February, when temperatures are low, is when your plants are typically completely dormant. It’s the very best time of year to prune evergreen or deciduous trees and shrubs that do not bloom in the spring. Pruning spring blooming plants now will remove their developing blossoms!
Deciduous plants are easier to evaluate this time of year when the leaves are gone, exposing the structure of the tree or shrub. Sap and life giving energies have returned to the roots, meaning pruning now will not compromise the plants vitality.
Stand back and evaluate the plant for structure, form and character. Look for limbs that are damaged, touching, or crossing and prune those first. Next, remove any secondary limbs (not the main apex) that are growing straight up or straight down. That may be all that is needed, but opening the tree or shrub for more air and sunlight does the plant amazing good. You’ll see come spring and summer! These assessments are borrowed from bonsai pruning techniques, but generally apply across the landscape.
Fall pruning should generally be avoided because it can encourage a growth spurt exposing the new, younger foliage to greater potential winter damage, creating a plant that doesn’t look so great come spring.
Plants need protection from potentially drying winter winds, and can be sprayed with products such as “Wilt proof” to help prevent such damage. Don’t forget to water landscape plants and especially plants in containers during dry spells.
Happy winter gardening!
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