University of Vermont Extension 
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Winter News Article


Charlie Nardozzi, Senior Horticulturist
National Gardening Association, and
Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont

Proper snowblowing to avoid damage to landscape plants, taking inventory of seed supplies, and checking stored root crops for decay, are some of the gardening tips for this month.

When you are clearing your driveway with a snowblower this winter, direct the snow away from plants. Otherwise, the blowing ice crystals may damage the tender bark of young trees and shrubs. This isn't as much of a concern for plants wrapped with burlap.

When you're finished with holiday evergreen boughs, use them to mulch tender perennials and shrubs. They make a lightweight but insulating layer that helps protect plants from alternating temperatures like our typical January thaw followed by a deep freeze.

Now is a good time to take inventory of your supplies for seed starting. Check quantities of potting soil, containers, labels, other supplies, and seeds you may have stored from previous years. Sterilize any used containers with a 10 percent bleach solution (one part bleach to ten parts water). If you have seeds more than a couple years old, sow a few (even between moist paper towels) to check their germination rate.

If you've noticed tiny black flies that look like fruit flies around your indoor plants, they are probably fungus gnats. Though annoying when they flit about, the 1/8-inch-long adult insects are harmless. Their tiny, worm-like larvae feed on organic matter in moist soil, which can include plant roots. To control them, allow the soil to dry out between waterings, use sticky traps, or drench soil with a biological control.

Potatoes, onions, carrots, turnips, and other root crops that you have stored in your basement or root cellar should be checked regularly for signs of decay. Any vegetables that show any rotting should be removed and eaten (if possible) immediately so they don't spread the disease to other vegetables.

If you start seeds under grow lights or fluorescent shop lights indoors, check the tubes for signs of age. Tubes that have been used for two to three seasons probably have lost much of their intensity even though they look fine. Dark rings on the ends of the tubes are a sign they need to be replaced.

Now is the time to order bare-root fruit trees. Bare-root trees are shipped in late winter or early spring before they start to grow. Trees will be shipped for planting time in your area, and they should be planted immediately upon arrival.

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