Punch list: Holiday plant care, and getting a new garden party started

Gardeners of all levels make few New Year resolutions. We don’t need to, since the time and energy involved in gardening seem effortless. We’re talking flowers, fruit and fun outdoors.

First, let’s focus on holiday plant care, then we’ll get this new garden party season started.

Post-Holiday Plant Care

  • Caring for seasonal plants like amaryllis, Norfolk pine and poinsettias past the holiday season makes sense if you’re willing to provide the growing conditions and care they need. If not, or if they are looking unhealthy and have lost their charm, don’t stress tossing, composting or giving them a new home. Christmas cactus is an easy year-round indoor plant; keep it.
  • Cut off amaryllis blooms after they fade but wait to cut down the green stalk until it has turned yellow, this forces energy back in the bulb. Water when the top two inches are dry and fertilize every few weeks. It can be moved outdoors after the last frost or kept indoors and treated as a house plant until next fall, when it needs several weeks to rest (in a dark place) before coaxing it back to growth with water and light.
  • Keep Norfolk pine and poinsettias watered as needed (when the top inch of soil medium dries); drain any excess water from the tray. Keep plants from cold drafts and near bright light, but not direct sun. Group plants together for more humidity. Fertilize Norfolk pines every four to six months. Use time-released balanced fertilizers or liquid at half strength to keep them dark green and growing. Poinsettias will lose their color in late winter, often by mid- to late March. As they grow side shoots, prune old branches but keep a few leaves for ongoing photosynthesis. Repot with fresh potting soil and added fertilizer near summer and treat as a houseplant or keep outdoors in the summer (never below 55 degrees). Starting around October, they need to be given 14 hours of uninterrupted darkness every night to develop color.

Get Ready for the New Gardening Season

If you are new to Colorado, you’ve already noticed our elevation, dry climate and low humidity. Our slow-draining alkaline soils or quick-draining sandy soils can be very challenging, even for experienced Colorado gardeners. One of the best ways to learn how to manage and find success in our growing conditions is to take classes or attend seminars and workshops.

Register soon for garden classes; many are free or low cost at garden centers, non-profit community centers, libraries and botanic gardens. Volunteer training is another option to learn about gardening.

There is a class for just about every type of gardening you wish to learn about. Courses range from small space and container gardening for apartment residents to starting a sustainable farm and ranch business. Or learn how to keep bees or receive cottage food-safety training. Take classes now and be ready to roll in the spring.

A great place to learn about our soils, weather and growing seasons is your local Colorado State University county extension office. This nationwide, research-based volunteer network is ready to answer all your gardening questions via phone and email. Some counties offer classes, or check later this spring and summer at area garden centers and farmers markets. Click here for the office nearest you. Or check out my blog about classes and plant society resources for 2019.

Winter pruning while trees and shrubs are dormant is good timing. Always hire bonded, insured tree- pruning specialists. (Betty Cahill, Special to The Denver Post)

Other tips:

  • With all the exciting growth and opportunities in Colorado, finding quality, experienced landscape help can be challenging. Match your project with the correct professional to do the job. A mow, blow and go lawn care company may not have the credentials to install a pergola or brick patio.
  • Avoid waiting until the last minute to find a qualified landscaper or contractor; their books fill up quickly. Ask family, friends and co-workers for recommendations. Contact local trade associations and reputable garden centers for references. Be sure to check credentials and call references.
  • Set up tree- and shrub-pruning appointments this month if you’re not a do-it-yourselfer. Winter pruning while trees and shrubs are dormant is good timing. Always hire bonded, insured tree- pruning specialists. Click here for a list. Reasons to prune mature trees include thinning for health maintenance, providing clearance, improving views, and reducing the chance of breakage from wind and snow.
  • It’s still dry out there, gardeners. Pull out the hoses and give your landscape a deep drink midday when temperatures are over 40 degrees.
  • This is the month to order online and shop at your favorite garden center for gardening supplies and seeds. Newer seed varieties often sell quickly. Vegetables that need anywhere from 10 to 14  weeks that are seeded and grown indoors before transplanting outside include artichoke, celeriac, celery, leeks and onion seeds. There are several ornamental annual plants that need 10 or more weeks of indoor growth before going outside. Check out my handy timing chart.
  • There are plenty of vegetable, annual and perennial plant seeds that can be directly sown outside closer to the final spring frost date, around mid-May. Garden centers will have newly grown transplants or larger plants ready to go in the ground this spring in you’re not into indoor seed-starting.

 

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