Dormant yard? Get your green thumb dirty anyway

Weather can be so fickle in North Texas in January. It’s hard to know if the weekend will be a great one for planting new trees and laying down fresh mulch or if you’d be better off indoors snuggled up with a good seed catalog. There are a few things you can do to perk up your spirits and get your green thumbs in the dirt no matter what Mother Nature decides to do. Just make sure to plan ahead and try to be a little flexible, if necessary.

If you’re staying indoors, it’s a great time to incorporate houseplants. Ferns, Chinese evergreens, and anthuriums are all good options for winter light conditions and their fresh green hues can really brighten up a space in the winter. A great one for novices is sansevieria, also known as sword plant among other names. It can handle infrequent watering, too. It’s a pretty and forgiving plant.

Another good January activity is to start planning your garden. You’ll be able to start seeds indoors in a few weeks for transplanting at the end of February. If there are specials heirlooms you want to try and need to order the seeds, it’s a good time to think about doing that now. Good early vegetable starts include tomatoes, asparagus, beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, potatoes, and lettuce. Petunias, begonias and impatiens are nice flowers to go ahead and start now.

When you do get a chance to get outside, it’s still a good time to plant new shade and fruit and nut trees. It’s also time to plant any chilled tulip bulbs and roses. Mulching beds that didn’t get finished in the fall should be a priority at this time as well.

If your trees and evergreen shrubs need pruning, now is the time, while they’re dormant. Prune carefully to remove damaged branches, cutting flush against the remaining branches on shrubs and along the branch collar on trees. In the case of shade trees, remove some lower branches to allow the sun to penetrate to the soil below.

Remember to recycle your Christmas tree if you haven’t already done so. Call your city to find out where your local recycling program is, or recycle your own by using the branches as mulch around bushes and chopping the trunk into firewood for next year.

Finally, don’t forget the wildlife this time of year. This is a crucial time for our outdoor friends, so keep your feeders stocked and your bird baths filled with clean water. It’s also a good time to erect bat houses. Many species hibernate at this time of year, and installing a bat house now gives the house a chance to weather so they’re ready when the bats are active.

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