Yes, it’s cold and often grey outside, but that doesn’t mean your garden chores are done for the season! Believe it or not, your garden is still a living and growing thing all through winter. Now that the days are growing longer you’ll have more time to get all of your indoor and outdoor gardening chores done.
January and February are the months to consider doing a winter prune on your deciduous shrubs and fruit trees, before the buds pop. Trim out anything dead, diseased, or damaged. This will be easier to see now before there are any leaves on the branches. Trees and shrubs left unpruned may have fewer blooms and less growth come spring. Prune roses as well and they’ll reward you with a riot of blooms.
It’s also a good time for planting early spring bulbs! Yes, it’s true, if you can work the soil it’s not too late to plant spring-flowering plants such as Crocus, Hyacinths, Tulips, Daffodils and more. For summer bulbs you’ll want to take a look at them and make sure none of them are rotted or collapsed. This indicates either disease or a bug infestation, so you’ll want to get rid of those before it spreads to your healthy bulbs.
Examine your perennial plants for frost heaves. This happens when the roots get exposed due to the freezing and thawing cycles of the ground. If you find them make sure the roots are properly buried and consider adding some mulch over the area to prevent future heaves.
January and February are a good time to plant bare-root hedges, which are cheaper than pot-grown. These should become available toward the end of February, so think about digging your holes now when the ground is softer and easier to work with.
Sweet Pea is one of the great early crops to start from seed packets at this time. Early January is the best time to do that. Make sure they are in a frost-free area, and they’ll be ready for planting in March or April!
Turn the soil in your vegetable garden. The weather over the next few months will help to break it down and get it ready for planting in spring once the cold weather passes.
One of the most welcome sights in the garden is when a butterfly comes to visit. When a whole swarm of them comes, it’s like magic. So how can you be sure to get more of these lovely visitors? By planting a butterfly garden! A butterfly garden, or pollinator garden, is planted specifically to lure beneficial insects who pollinate your flowering plants.
Here on Long Island, we have many butterfly species that you might see in your garden. Monarch butterflies, black swallowtail, and the painted lady just to name a few. To lure adult butterflies you not only need nectar plants for them to eat, but you also need to plant native plants that are food for butterfly caterpillars.
In early spring butterflies arrive and begin to lay their eggs on native plants that will feed their young. These eggs hatch into caterpillars. Once the caterpillars eat their fill they will build a cocoon. They’ll stay inside the cocoon until they emerge sometime later as an adult butterfly. Your garden should provide for every stage of the lifecycle. Plants like butterfly bushes (which are considered an invasive plant in some states), coneflower, sage, and lantanas are great at feeding adult butterflies, while milkweed, aster, parsley, and violets are the favorite foods of caterpillars.
Most plants that attract butterflies grow in full sun, so plan ahead before planting your butterfly garden. While some birds and butterflies can get along, most birds love butterflies for a snack. When laying out your garden place bird feeders well away from your butterfly garden, as well as any birdhouses.
In addition to knowing what plants to grow, you need to provide water, shelter, and sun. A birdbath or water feature is the perfect way to ensure that your winged friends have access to water to drink. Trees and shrubs make for the best butterfly houses. They provide branches to roost on at night and a place to hide from predators. Many trees and shrubs are also excellent caterpillar food.
Finally, the sun. Butterflies are cold-blooded insects and they need the sun to warm themselves up each morning. Make sure that some sun reaches either open ground, stones, or even pavement early in the morning so that it warms up and will be attractive to butterflies.
If you do a little bit of advanced planning and make sure to offer everything butterflies need to thrive you’ll lure them into your garden year after year.