Gardeners need not think of this time of year as the so-called “dead of winter.” Sure, many of the trees are bare of leaves, most shrubs are dormant and we await the appearance of the earliest bulbs, such as snowdrops and crocuses.
But how can winter be dead when camellias bloom beautifully and flowers of winter jasmine rise from below ground?
There are, of course, deeds left undone. No matter. There’s time to catch up, even if it means starting with a mundane task such as clearing leaves out of the gutters.
Some of you still have unplanted flower bulbs and are wondering if it is too late to plant. These valuable bulbs have no future in a paper bag, so do your best to get them in the ground.
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If the ground is not an option, consider planting bulbs in pots. This is fast, easy and productive. Set the bulbs deep in the pots and close together, but not touching.
Many gardeners use ashes from the fireplace as fertilizer during cold-weather months.
But pay attention to the soil requirements of certain plants. Many popular landscape plants — including azaleas, rhododendrons, camellias and gardenias — require acidic soil for best growth, so don’t spread your fireplace ashes on them. Instead, use the ashes to make soil less acidic in vegetable beds, rose beds and flower gardens.
You can also add wood ashes in thin layers to your compost bin.
As you study your winter landscape, keep an eye out for a certain weed that thrives in cool weather. This is the bothersome chickweed, a low, densely packed, light-green plant. It runs rampant through the winter, spreading far and wide while your back is turned.
Then, in late winter, it blooms, bearing sort-of-pretty daisylike flowers that are tiny but packed with seeds. These blooms will drop their seeds all over the place, and the problem will be back to drive you crazy next winter.
The good thing about chickweed is that it is easy to pull up. The roots seem barely in the ground and come up easily with the tines of a leaf rake. Do this now, or at least before the plants bloom.
All this is easy enough to do on a nice afternoon when the sun is shining, the camellias are blooming and you haven’t a thought that it is the dead of winter.