Gardening Basics

A pot of blooming paperwhite narcissus at your door will brighten comings and goings with bloom and scent. Or spray paint small branches white and add a coat of silver glitter glue. Place in a large vase wrapped with white lights.

This is the gardener’s month for planning, especially vegetable gardens which you will start from seeds — you’ll be planting those seeds very soon. For more planning ideas, check out the book list in this issue of Homelife.

The extreme temperature changes of freezing nights followed by warm sunny days can damage tree bark. Wrap trunks with burlap if they are in vulnerable locations, especially if open to sunny afternoons. Or paint the tree or shrub bark with white exterior latex paint to help avoid splitting. Mix the paint one to one with water.

Kitchen and Orchard

Bare root fruit and nut trees are becoming available at local nurseries for planting now and in February. Choose disease-resistant varieties.

Order seed catalogs, or check out seed racks at local stores. If stored properly, seeds will remain viable for three years, so consider buying larger quantities of your “regulars.”

Parsley, lettuces and early cabbage seeds can be started mid-month for planting out in March.

Ornamental Garden

Bare root roses become available this month. Planting them in winter allows more root growth, resulting in better health during the hot summer. For the healthiest plants, make sure you are buying good stock.

Clean bird feeders monthly. Before refilling, use an alcohol or bleach-based wipe to eliminate pathogens. Seed-eaters and hummingbirds will both appreciate food and water.

Other critters can become a nuisance or worse at this time of year. Check around the base of ornamental trees and shrubs to make sure mulch is kept away from the trunk. Rats or voles can gnaw on the bark, compromising the health of the plant.

You can shut down ponds without fish. Koi can survive winter weather, but make sure you check pond filtration systems to make sure water is moving. Fish will stay in hibernation until water temperature rises above 50 degrees.


Make sure you clean up leaves on lawns. Rotting leaves will smother individual grass plants, leaving you with bare spots come spring.

If your lawn has been yellowing and you’ve had no success with fertilizers, check your soil’s pH to see if it is below 6.0. Grass does best in a slightly alkaline soil, so add lime according to package directions. Winter rains will help deliver the minerals into the soil.


For the winter, the plant clinic at Oregon State University’s Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center is open Tuesdays and Thursdays between 10:00 am and 2:00 pm at 569 Hanley Road, Central Point. Call 541-776-7371. For additional information about Master Gardener programs, check online: