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Robin Friedman: Perfect time to check off your gardening goals for January
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Mow your tall fescue lawn or over-seeded rye on Bermuda lawn as needed. Mow ryegrass to 1 to 1 1/5 inches. Mow tall fescue to 3 to 3 1/2 inches.

Avoid heavy traffic on dormant warm-season lawns. Dry grass is easily broken and the crown of the plant may be severely damaged or killed.


If you haven’t done it yet, plant those spring-flowering bulbs you purchased earlier in the fall. Examples include daffodils, tulips, hyacinths and crocus.

Start forcing bulbs such as paper white narcissus or hyacinth for early blooms. And enjoy winter color from plants such as snapdragons, ornamental cabbage and kale, hellebores and camellias.

Frost or freezes are likely this month and next month. Be ready to cover tender plants to minimize damage.


The winter months when trees and shrubs are dormant are excellent times to plant.

Do not plant them too deeply. Plant them no deeper than the tree in its pot or root ball and ensure there’s a beginning root flare at the base of the trunk.

Don’t backfill holes with organic matter as it will shrink as it dries. Use native topsoil and be generous with topsoil backfill especially near the surface.

Fallen leaves provide the carbon ingredient needed for successful composting and make good mulch.


While crape myrtles do not require pruning, removing seed pods, crossing and dead branches and small twiggy growth improves the appearance and form of the tree or shrub. 

Don’t prune cold-damaged plants yet. Wait until warm weather returns to cut back plants.

Avoid the temptation to prune on a warm winter day. You’ll prevent further damage.

Prune storm-damaged limbs quickly to reduce damage and prevent tearing of the bark.

When pruning large limbs, always undercut first. This means to cut from the bottom up, one-third of the way through the limb, then finish by cutting from the top. The undercut keeps the limb from splitting and breaking off, which could damage the trunk and become an entryway for insects and diseases.

Do not cut flush to the trunk. The collar or enlarged base of a branch produces hormones to heal wounds. Do not apply dressings or paint to the wounds.

Watch out for rabbit or squirrel damage to the bark of trees and shrubs.


Add statuary, birdbaths and wind chimes to the garden landscape.

Keep bird feeders and water supplies filled. Feed the birds regularly and see that they have water. Birds like suet, fruit, nuts and bread crumbs as well as bird seed.


Make a garden plan for spring and summer. Consider planting some old favorites and some new varieties as well.

Now is a great time to bring soil samples to the extension office to have time to amend your soil for spring planting. Take samples from six locations in your yard by digging down four to six inches below the surface and collecting two cups in total.

Check your compost pile and stir it as needed.


Turn and prune house plants regularly to keep them shapely. Pinch back new growth to promote bushy plants.

Check all house plants closely for insect infestations. Quarantine gift plants until you determine they are not harboring any pests. 

You may notice leaf yellowing and leaf drop on some houseplants. This is usually a result of low-light conditions or over-watering. Most houseplants should be watered only when the top of the growing medium begins to dry out.

Cut back or stop fertilizing houseplants unless they are grown under supplemental lighting.

Houseplants with large leaves and smooth foliage, such as philodendrons, dracaena and rubber plant benefit if their leaves are washed at intervals to remove dust and grime. It helps keep the leaf pores open.


To clean fertilizer-salt crusted empty clay pots, add one cup of white vinegar to a gallon of warm water and soak the pots for 12 hours. For heavily crusted pots or any pots with residue, scrub with a steel wool pad.

Set out to dry but store in the garage or another relatively frost-free area.


Clean, repair and organize garden tools in the winter. Repair leaky hoses. Sand and seal tool handles to prevent splinters.

Apply brightly colored paint to handles. It makes them easier to spot in the garden.

For more monthly garden to-dos, visit

Robin Lynn Friedman is the Master Gardener coordinator for the Hall County Extension Office. She can be reached at or 770-535-8293.

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