University of Vermont Extension 
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Winter News Article 


By Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont

January is a good month for gardening, at least on paper, as you start planning next year's garden and consult seed catalogs for ideas and new varieties.

Although you'll want to include many of your family's favorites, why not try something you've never grown before. How about collards, shallots, popcorn, or even sweet potatoes, if you live in one of the warmer areas of Vermont? Specialty crops such as bok choy (Chinese cabbage), tatsoi (flat cabbage), or any of the fancy lettuces also are nice for a change of pace.

And don't forget to check out new releases of old favorites when planning your flowerbeds. New hybrids are being developed to offer more color choices or resistance to insects and diseases. Try some of the All America Selections, which are tested at several locations around the country, including Burlington, Vermont, before release.

To determine how many seeds to order, map out your garden on graph paper, allowing adequate space between rows and ample room for vining crops such as pumpkins and winter squash. You might want to plan your order with a gardener friend or neighbor, so you can sample more varieties as well as save on shipping costs.

If you received a poinsettia or cyclamen as a holiday gift, keep it blooming by providing proper care. Poinsettias need good drainage, so if the pot is still wrapped in foil, remove the foil or make a hole in the bottom to allow the water to drain out. Keep soil moist, but don't overwater.

Place your plant in a cool (60 to 65 degrees F) location that gets plenty of light. Keep out of warm or cool drafts, and fertilize once a month. (Your other houseplants also will benefit from fertilizer applications once or twice this winter.)

The cyclamen with its unique blossoms needs to be kept cool and evenly moist. Too high temperatures, too little water, or too low light may cause leaves to yellow and drop. But with proper care, the plant should continue to bloom for six to eight weeks.

While snow makes a good protective cover for plants, if you use salt to melt ice on driveways or walkways, be careful not to pile snow from these areas on your plants or where melting snow will drain onto them. After the snow melts, flush the area around the roots exposed to salt with fresh water.

Winter is a good time to sign up for gardening classes or seminars offered by many garden centers or town recreation offices. Or gather a group of friends to learn bonsai or compare notes on growing perennials or tropical houseplants, whatever piques your interest.

Other activities for January: check houseplants regularly for pests; keep bird feeders filled; spend time browsing the garden section at your library or on the Internet.

Return to Perry's Perennial Pages, Articles