Winter Root Vegetables, Greens, and Flower Bulbs
Winter is a wonderful season for gardening! Even during this season of quiet dormancy there are still a
few tasks to undertake, some vegetables to harvest, and maybe a blossom to enjoy!
In Jack’s Vegetable Garden at Maymont, the volunteers continue to harvest collard and kale greens for
the local food pantry, along with carrots and other root crops. At home I enjoy using fresh parsley, thyme
and rosemary from my container garden during the winter months. A task that never ends is
turning the compost pile since decomposition continues within, regardless of the air temperature
At Maymont, we do not cut back the perennial borders until early spring, just before the new growth
appears. For Richmond, that could be as early as late March depending on the weather. Today Marie’s
Butterfly Trail is sporting the remains of the perennials whose blossoms attracted butterflies and other
pollinators the previous season. The staff and volunteers already cut back and removed the debris of
any diseased plants so as not to reinfect the garden come spring. Throughout the winter, the garden
beds are checked for signs of frost heaving. When discovered, the soil is tamped back down and a
generous layer of mulch is added on top.
Be mindful that the first week of January is the last week to plant daffodils and tulips without affecting
their spring bloom season. Start the New Year off with bringing all bulbs out of the garage or shed and get them in the ground. If time is tight, then plant the bulbs in clusters of 10 in one good-sized hole. They will be in the ground in no time and this spring you will enjoy bouquets of color in your border.
It is also not too late to prune grapevines. For guidance on when is the best time to prune different
plants in a landscape consult this easy to reference shrub pruning calendar from Virginia Tech.
January is the best month to apply horticulture oil to roses, shrubs or trees that are afflicted with scale
and other insects. Read the label carefully before applying this age-old organic insect control product.
After a winter storm, remember to remove the snow from evergreens by gently tapping the branches
from underneath with a broom before the snow freezes on top. This will prevent breakage and possible
permanent damage due to the weight of the snow. However, it is better not to remove ice from your
plants - instead, be patient and allow the sun to melt it away. As I mentioned in the December
newsletter, tie up or wrap special conifers or shrubs in a cone shape with breathable fabric before a
storm to limit the accumulation of snow on these plants.
Indoors, I keep watering my house plants, but I resist the urge to fertilize them until March when the
days are longer. I do inspect the plants for spider mites, mealy bugs, whitefly and other insects, treating
as needed with soapy water. I only use pure soap with fatty acids for my homemade spray mixture of 1
Tbsp per 1 quart of water; I avoid dishwashing liquids that contain bleach, a degreaser, and ones for automatic dishwashers. I also turn my plants to encourage a more uniform growth habit, and I remove any dead flowers or leaves to improve air circulation within the plant.
Finally, I like to plan the next year of gardens in January - this way I can place any special orders for
unique plants with my local garden center for delivery in the early spring. When choosing my seeds, I always look at the location of the seed nursery so I know their growing conditions are close to central
Virginia’s. When the website or catalog says a plant is drought tolerant, I know they mean a mid-Atlantic
drought condition, not conditions experienced in other parts of the United States. Read and then do a
bit more research. I encourage you to stretch your gardening knowledge by growing something new this
spring - it’s the best way to learn!
Happy Gardening and stay healthy by being outside as much as possible,