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  • January garden tips & tasks

    Begin a garden journal. Use it to jot down ideas and lists of plants you want to grow this year.

    Keep bird feeders filled to attract a wide variety of winged visitors to your garden in winter.

    If you bring home new houseplants, protect them from the cold air on the trip home. Once you bring them in, keep them separate from other plants for a few days to watch for pests.

    When the ground freezes and thaws, plants can be pushed out of the ground – a process known as “heaving.” If this happens, tuck the roots back into the soil and cover the area with a layer of mulch.

    You can grow herbs on a sunny windowsill indoors, but pinch them back regularly to keep them from getting tall and “leggy.”

    Birds also need water in winter, so provide water in a birdbath or shallow pan and change it frequently.

    Winter is a good time to have the soil in your lawn or garden beds tested. The Extension Service in your county can provide materials and instructions for testing.

    Watch for pests on houseplants and tender outdoor plants that spend the winter indoors. If you see evidence of aphids or scale infestations, take action immediately to keep them from spreading to other plants.Save the date

    Save the date

    Planners of the ever-popular Nashville Lawn & Garden Show announce that next spring's show will be March 2 - 5, 2017 at The Fairgrounds Nashville. The theme will celebrate Gardens of the Future with garden displays, lectures, vendors, floral designs, and special features for children. The centerpiece of the all-indoors event is, as always, the walk-through, interactive garden displays from some of Middle Tennessee's top landscape and gardening companies. Free lectures are planned each day on a range of garden-related topics, and visitors can shop the Marketplace with more than 150 vendors. Complete details will be available soon at http://nashvillelawnandgardenshow.com, where you can also sign up for the email newsletter and receive updates.

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Banish the Bradford pear

QUESTION: When should Bradford pear trees be pruned? Is now a good time? How far back should you prune them?

Bradford pear trees are the first to flower in spring, but they are not a good choice for landscape trees.

I’ll answer the last question first, and echo the thoughts of many landscape and forestry experts who believe that these trees should get just one pruning cut – about an inch above the ground.

Seriously, Bradford pears (Pyrus calleryana Bradford’) are not good landscape trees, no matter how lovely they are this time of year. They live fast and die young – a 25-year-old Bradford pear is probably near the end of its life. Because their heavy limbs grow at narrow angles, they tend to split apart. And because they shoot up so quickly and easily, this import from China has been placed on alert as a possible threat by the Tennessee Exotic Pest Plant Council. So, is it time to reconsider?

But back to the question: It’s good to prune trees in late winter, while they’re still dormant. As you are no doubt aware if you’re in Middle Tennessee, “late winter” now seems to mean the same as “spring,” and most things are no longer dormant. So if you need to prune, do it now, before the tree leafs out fully and you can still see the branch structure easily.

Really, though, wouldn’t you rather have something else? Landscape professionals suggest a couple of good native alternatives to the Bradford pear: downy serviceberry (Amelanchier arboria), which has white flowers in spring, dark green foliage in summer and red berries in the fall; and Fringe tree (Chionanthus virginicus), white flowers, green leaves, small blue-black fruit enjoyed by birds in the fall.

Either would be better than a Bradford pear, guaranteed.

 

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