In mild regions (Zones 8-11), winter doesn’t signal the end of the garden season. You can tackle plenty of chores as the new year begins, from planting and pruning, to spraying and fertilizing. Don’t know where to begin with winter garden chores? Use this to-do list as your guide.
Shop for bare-root stock roses, fruit trees, cane berries and strawberries. You can also find bare-root asparagus, artichokes, grape vines and kiwi vines. Nurseries stock these items at the right planting time for your area. Learn how to plant bare-root roses. Discover the advantages bare-root trees offer.
Sharpen your shears and head outside to prune roses. Remove dead or damaged branches. Cut remaining canes by one-half to two-thirds. Prune before buds swell. In warmest regions, where roses don’t go dormant, prune during the coldest part of the year. Learn more about basic rose pruning. Remember to prune trees and shrubs. Don’t prune spring bloomers now – you risk removing this year’s flowers. In regions where frost can strike, wait to prune tender plants like Tibouchina or oleander until danger of frost has passed.
Apply horticultural oil to dormant plants, such as fruit trees, roses and ornamental trees like Japanese cherry. If you’re pruning these plants, time chores so you apply oil after pruning. Oil sprays smother overwintering insects. To control various pests and diseases, spray dormant fruit trees with horticultural oil mixed with a fungicide. In warmest areas, treat for lace bugs on azaleas and avocados. Use a systemic product applied directly to soil for azaleas. With avocados, spray foliage and stems. Check with your local extension office to learn which spray to use for specific plants and problems. Follow label directions carefully, especially regarding ideal weather conditions for success.
Winter is the rainy season for some areas, but in others, winds can dry plants. Evergreens are especially susceptible to winter drying. In regions where soil doesn’t freeze, continue to water through winter during dry spells. Pay special attention to newly planted items, rhododendrons and other broadleaf evergreens. Remember to water plants beneath wide eaves or in other areas rain can’t reach. Avoid watering established xeric plants.
Feed cool-season annuals tucked into containers or planting beds. This includes pansy, viola, snapdragon and petunia. Emerging bulbs benefit from bulb or organic fertilizer scratched lightly into soil. In warmest zones, feed citrus six to eight weeks before trees flower. Also fertilize winter vegetables as necessary. Apply about 2 inches of composted manure to established rhubarb and asparagus. If in doubt about fertilizer timing, check with your local extension office.
Winter cold snaps and freezes can damage tender plants, such as citrus, hibiscus, bougainvillea and subtropical cacti, such as Adenium and Euphorbia. Cover plants with plastic tents, frost blankets or sheets if nights are predicted to be especially cold. Move tender container plants to protected locations.
Study your winter garden. Take photos of planting areas and specific views from indoors. Make notes of areas that need improvement. If you realize you need to infuse scenes with winter interest, visit nurseries or local public gardens to discover which plants can help enhance the winter show in your yard.