Winter is still here, but this doesn’t mean that you need to hibernate indoors. There are plenty of things to do in your yard and garden during the cold season, says University of Tennessee horticulturists, and this includes the planting of trees and shrubs.
“Yes, this is a great time to plant,” says UT research horticulturalist Jason Reeves. “In fact, you have a bit of an advantage when planting in the winter, since many plants are dormant, and will require less water.”
However, Reeves says evergreen plants, such as juniper, arborvitae, magnolia, camellia or holly still need to be watered if we don’t receive ample rain.
“Also, it is a good idea to mulch newly installed plants so as to protect their roots from the cold” says Reeves.
These dreary winter skies may have you longing for bright colors, so Reeves suggests adding plants like witchhazel, red twig dogwood, helleborus, camellias and ‘Color Guard’ yucca to your landscape for winter interest.
“These plants are wonderful for adding color, but be sure when purchasing camellias to buy those that are appropriate for your hardiness zone. Just because the nursery has it for sale doesn’t mean it is suitable for your climate. I often see marginally hardy camellias at nurseries.”
Leaf removal is another winter task you can perform. When you’ve finished raking however, don’t throw the leaves away, you earned them! Instead mulch them with a shredder or your mower, then add them to your compost pile or spread a thin layer on your beds for low cost mulch. This looks especially good in a woodland garden. Another option is to spread a 1-2” layer of mulched leaves over your vegetable garden.
Plant strawberries soon
If you want to add strawberries to your home garden this year, now is the time to prepare for their planting. A planting of 8 feet by 30 feet will furnish a family of four with an ample supply of fruit.
Take a soil sample before planting to determine the fertilizer and lime needs. Order your plants. When the plants arrive, keep them in a cool place until planted. Strawberries do best when planted in March, but you can plant them in April if you irrigate. Two weeks before planting, prepare a smooth planting bed. Work in the lime and fertilizer while preparing the bed. If you don't take a soil test, apply 5 pounds of 10-10-10 fertilizer to an area 8 feet by 30 feet.
Don't plant strawberries in an area where you've grown tomatoes, peppers or Irish potatoes in the last three years. Set plants 20 to 24 inches apart in rows that are 4 feet apart. For an area 8 feet by 30 feet, you'll need 30 to 35 plants. New runner plants will fill in the rows during the summer. Set plants deep enough to cover the entire root system, but not the crown. Don't bend roots during planting. Remove all flowers the first year and fertilize with the same amount of fertilizer in June and late August. Remember, strawberry plants are shallow rooted and need 1 to 1-1/2 inches of water each week during the growing season.