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MV Gardening Corner January, 2014


The months of November and December were quiet in terms of outdoor work, or perhaps I should re-phrase that..…there is always plenty to do outdoors, but the holidays and school and other obligations crept up on us before we could do more outside.  January is a good month for pruning and cutting back what didn’t get trimmed in late fall, but also late January is one of the best times to start pruning the orchard and the blueberry bushes.  
The time for trimming back rose bushes and cleaning out the sedum and daylilies that have bloomed has already passed.  They look neater if they are trimmed in the fall, but there is no problem with waiting until one of our typical “January thaws” in which to do some of this outdoor work.  Roses can be cut back to almost a foot and then mulched, though some gardeners do not mulch roses at all and they still bloom if hardy enough.  Old day lily stalks and sedum stalks can be simply twisted off the plant at ground level and then composted.  Shasta daisies can also be cut back to a foot or so and then mulched, so they will emerge in the spring and summer with strong shoots for those autumn flowers.
Blueberries will produce next year’s fruit on the new greener shoots, so when pruning, it is wise to cut off the older browner canes.  If new shoots are emerging at ground level, that is usually a good sign, meaning that the root system is getting well nourished.  We store our hay for the goats in a shed near our blueberry bushes and inevitably loose hay falls all over the floor as we drag bales in and out a few times a day.  Every once and a while we sweep up all this fallen hay and bring it out to the blueberry bushes and mulch between the rows.  It keeps down any stray weeds, but also nourishes the soil that supports those blueberries.  When pruning blueberries, one can cut off the old and keep the new, cutting back the twiggy or weak looking branches, but one can also cutback any cross branches on the inside  of the bush.  They will tend to leaf out and block light from the other branches.  Light + air + water + flowers = yummy branches, so try to envision stalks with their leaves on and allow for good air and light ventilation when pruning.
January orchard
Bill has already walked the orchard, and like a photographer trying to set up a camera shot, he tend to stand back and frame a tree, examining how it is growing and where its strengths and weaknesses are.  He then goes about cutting off the small branches that look too weak or look like they will crowd out other branches.  Most fruit trees tend to bear heavy fruit, so if one wants large healthy fruit, one doesn’t want too many pears or peaches or apples on one branch; they’re too heavy and not enough nutrients can feed several large pieces of fruit if they’re all on one branch.  In January, he prunes back the obvious; in February, he will spray with a dormant oil, which keeps some of the pests at bay, but once branches begin to bloom and start setting flowers, he watches how many flowers are emerging from each branch.  If too may, he will cut those off in early spring.
Bill loves to pour over his seed catalogues at this time of year and has already ordered some seeds for spring.  He did notice that seed prices have gone up quite a bit in cost this year, but we started watching the sales flyers that regularly come to our home from discount stores, such as Ocean Job Lot, Big Lots, etc.  They often have this year’s season of seeds at reduced prices, since they buy in bulk.  One such flyer arrived in yesterday’s mail with seeds 40% off, so Bill will be making a trip there soon.  
Winter months are quieter as a rule for gardening.  The inside herbs simply need watering.  The poinsettias and Christmas cactuses need sunlight and a little warmth and water, and the new Amaryllis gift needs some bright southern light to bring out its blooms sometime before spring.  The goats are delighted that we are through with the Christmas tree.  That is their favorite part of the holiday.  There is a rhythm to the seasons and we all need the quiet months to dig deeper, more or less.  The plants inside are working on their roots; the plants outdoors, like the carrots and horseradishes and kale are absorbing the cold without too many problems and we inside are all invited to “go deeper” into God’s stillness and beauty.   Happy exploring!
goat christmas tree 2014
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