While you may think January is a crazy time to be thinking about warm season annuals, this isn’t really so crazy if you like to save money. In Columbia, our last frost date is around March 21st. Flower seeds are very inexpensive and can offer you a greater selection of choices than your local garden center can offer. Seed packets will tell you how many weeks from time of sowing to planting are needed. Count backwards from March 21st to see when the seeds you wish to grow should be sown. Don’t plant any sooner than this, as your plants will be ready to transplant sooner than outdoor conditions may allow. The last frost date is a guideline, and actual weather conditions may not cooperate. Be sure to use potting soil, not topsoil to grow your seeds. Follow directions on the seed packet. A couple of little tricks are to moisten your potting soil before you plant your seeds and to lightly moisten after the seeds are in place. Save the clear plastic produce bags found at the grocery store to enclose your seed trays. This will help to create a mini greenhouse effect for your seeds. Watch carefully, though! The bag should be removed at the first sign of seedlings emerging to prevent a fungal disease caused by too much moisture from killing your seedlings. To help your seedlings germinate, try placing the seed tray on top of your refrigerator. For most people, the top of the refrigerator is just wasted space. The refrigerator will generate a lot of heat, and the seedlings will appreciate the bottom heat. Be sure to use a cookie sheet or pie tin to catch any water runoff.
Relax. Enjoy the break from the heat and mowing. Have you had a soil sample taken in the last three years? If not, do this now. Clemson Extension has a wonderful website at http://hgic.clemson.edu that will tell you how to take a soil sample as well as other good information. It takes about three months for the pH level of the soil to change, so a soil test now will allow for adjustments to be made to the soil prior to spring growth. Take separate samples for a flower bed versus the turf grass. Soil tests should be taken to the extension office located near Clemson Road at Two Notch Road. The cost is just $6 per sample, and it will be the most value for your yard.
January is the perfect time to cut back Liriope, also known as monkey grass. It can become filled with trash or just look unkempt, so an annual cut back can have your Liriope looking much better in no time. Use a weed eater to cut two inches above the soil. Rake away debris and remove. Monitor daylilies for aphids. Because we have mild winters, aphids will winter over in daylilies that haven’t gone completely dormant. Treat aphids with insecticidal soap. If you planned ahead and planted daffodils, enjoy! If you didn’t plant daffodils and are starved for color, start planning where you could plant daffodils in the fall. The best places are where they could be viewed from inside your house through a window, particularly one from a room you in which you spend a lot of time. Another January/February blooming perennial are Lenten roses. This plant is not a rose, as the name implies, but a terrific evergreen plant for shade.
Do not fertilize roses this month.
It is still a good time to plant shrubs. If your hollies or camellias have been infested with scale, now is a good time to treat with dormant oil on these shrubs. The oil works to smother this insect. They will appear usually as white or light gray specks on the underside of leaves or on stems. They won’t move, so don’t appear to be an insect.
It is prime time to plant a tree. Choose the site to plant a tree carefully. Look for overhead wires, and be sure that the mature tree won’t block your view when pulling out of a driveway. Don’t plant too close to the house or drive. Check for girdling roots and good tree structure when choosing a new tree for your yard. A good website for tree care and planting guidelines can be found at www.isa-arbor.com. This is the International Society of Arboriculture’s website, and is chock full of information about trees, and professionals to care for them in your area. Check it out!