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Wheeler: Tend to your garden's winter chores this month
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Even though winter weather is here, gardeners can still do some things in the yard. Even though they are not really big jobs, they are important to do to maintain a healthy garden and be ready for the upcoming growing season.

I was just talking to my father-in-law the other day about putting out more fescue seed to fill in some bare spots in the yard. Even though it was fairly late in the year, we figured it was worth a try considering how warm it’s been.

So as you can see, some projects can be done this year because of the warmer weather:


If you have reseeded your fescue lawn or are just trying to maintain your dormant warm season lawn through the winter, remove the leaves now. All of them have dropped and it’s a good time to get them up before the grass smothers underneath.

An alternative to removing them is to mulch them in place and allow them to decompose during the winter. A sharp mulching blade will ensure the leaves are not too thick. Sometimes you can get too many chopped up leaves and they compact down in areas.


Clean out your flower beds of spent annuals and deadhead any perennials. In general, leaves can be left in place if you want it to act like mulch, but make sure they are not covering any evergreens or new growth in the bed.


And now is the time to plant spring flowering bulbs. Follow the planting directions that come with the bulbs. Or if you are not sure, plant the bulbs about four times the height of the bulb itself.

Speaking of planting, now is a great time to plant trees and shrubs. Plant them so the top of the root ball is level to the ground, water them in to settle dirt and mulch.

Check the soil moisture. If we don’t get any rain, then supplement them with water. Generally this is not a problem, especially this year.


If you have any fruit trees or small fruits such as blueberries, rake up the fallen leaves and remove any fallen fruit that got left under the plants. Remove any old fruit that is still hanging too.

Sanitation like this will go a long way to reduce diseases next year. As tempting as it might be, wait until early March to prune any of your fruit trees.

Cleaning up the vegetable garden is also a good idea. Remove any old plant debris and add a good layer of leaves to the soil to keep it from washing away. This will add organic matter for next year’s garden production, too.


Even though it is winter, you can try to grow herbs in a window sill. Just find a good south-facing window for herbs to grow. This makes a fun winter project.


Now is a good time to search seed catalogs for next year’s veggie garden. Start by drawing out a sketch of this year’s garden, showing where everything was planted. Then make a new sketch showing where everything for the 2016 growing season should go by following the appropriate crop rotation practices.

Remember your vegetable families. For example, peppers and tomatoes are in the same family and squash and pumpkins are grouped together, too.

If you have any questions about winter chores in the landscape, just give me a call. I will be glad to help.

Michael Wheeler is county extension coordinator for the UGA Cooperative Extension office in Hall County. You can contact him at 770-535-8293, His column appears weekly and on