For most gardeners, the winter months are a time to take it easy, evaluate the past seasons’ triumphs (and failures), and browse through gardening and design magazines in search of ideas to make the upcoming spring a blooming success. But the winter months are a valuable time to accomplish some important tasks in the garden as well. Two important things to remember to do are pruning and watering.
The Perfect Time to Prune
Winter is possibly the best time to prune and trim deciduous trees, especially shade trees. The reason for this? With the leaves on the ground or in the compost pile, the branching structure of the tree is easily viewable and pruning cuts are readily made because leaves don’t impair sight lines and elbow room. The tree is essentially dormant during the freezing temperatures of December, January, and February so work on it is easily accomplished.
A Word of Caution for Flowering Trees: Pruning of ornamental deciduous trees can also be done during this time period, but spring blooming trees will have often already set their flower buds for the spring bloom, so those blooms will be sacrificed if pruned in winter. Flowering trees should generally be pruned in the spring soon after blooming is complete.
Don’t Forget to Water
The other critically important task in the winter garden, especially in the Midwest where fall and early winter days appear to grow drier with each passing year, is supplemental watering. This is of primary importance for evergreens (pine, spruce, fir, hemlock, yew, etc.), broadleaf evergreens (rhododendron, azalea, boxwood, laurel, etc.), and newly planted trees and shrubs of all kinds.
Evergreens continue to grow in the winter despite cold temperatures, especially during sunny, “warm-up” days, and they benefit greatly by having water around their roots readily available. It is definitely a hassle to drag the hose out and get these watering tasks done, but experience has taught those of us in the horticulture industry that it will pay huge rewards in the spring when your azaleas are green and lush and blooming, and your neighbor’s plants are a brown pile of sticks! If you have a heated garage, or unfinished basement area where you can store your hose, it will make the task much easier. And, the good news is, it only needs to be done once or twice a month during those winter days—less if your area benefits from a lot of snow or rain provided by Mother Nature.
So sit back, relax, and enjoy that hot cup of coffee or cuddle up by the fire, but don’t forget to take a few days to think about the plants outdoors and give them a little love too. Check out our blog on your garden dreaming days.