Horticultural heading: Winter gardening tasks to maintain plant health Columns

Spring may seem like a distant future. And a lot can happen in three months. But time may pass faster than you think. So gardening is still important, even in winter.

Although he doesn’t always feel like it, it’s officially winter. Shorter days and cooler nights, even in milder weather, mean there is winter in the garden. This usually means that a lot of things in the garden are basically restored, although this is not always the case. Hopefully in the cooler time the pests and diseases will either die or die.

Although the garden itself needs to rest before spring, there may be some tasks that need to be done and prepared for spring that can improve the overall health of the yard and better prepare the plants and soil for the growing season. Now is not the time to prune or fertilize, but there is still room for attention in the winter.

One of the most important things I recommend during this time is to protect all frost-sensitive plants in some way. I try to check the weather daily to see if there is frost on the horizon. Whenever the low temperature is below 40, I assume it can be frost and either bring the plants in or cover them overnight. This is especially true for subtropical and tropical trees and shrubs such as citrus or hibiscus.

Sensitive plants in the soil are best covered on colder nights, either with a frosty cloth or bedding. The most important thing is to protect the foliage from frost as much as possible. However, if the temperature becomes too low as in the past, it will not be enough and the plants may also need a heat source. For any sensitive tank-placed plants, it’s perfectly okay to take them indoors, but watch out for water because there are significant differences between outdoor and indoor relative humidity, which can lead to dehydration or water loss, so beware of it. water well.

Lantana Frost Damage Burtt gardening.JPG

Subtropical and tropical plants such as lantana are particularly susceptible to frost damage. Watch the weather and cover the plants with a frosting or even bedding when the nightly low temperature is 40 degrees or lower. Christopher Burtt / Provided

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Another thing to keep in mind during the cooler months is water requirements. While it is true that plants do not use as much water as in the warmer months, they must still be prevented from drying out completely. This is especially true for lawns, as allowing the lawn to dry out too much during the dormant period can lead to dead spots in the spring during the greening process. Here, too, it can come in handy to monitor the weather.

I suggest having a rain gauge to best measure rainfall and irrigation if it hasn’t been raining for more than a week. The general rule for all plants is that one inch of rain per week is enough to keep the plants from drying out completely. Luckily, there seems to be enough rain this winter, but this has been a problem in the past, so it’s still important to keep an eye out during the winter months.

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Since most plants are asleep during this period, the only thing that stands out is the weed. Winter weeds are relatively easy to spot as they are among the few green and growing plants. And one of the most common weeds is Florida concrete. Florida Betony, Stachys floridana, perennial weed belonging to the mint family. Thanks to the tubers it produces, it is one of the most aggressive weeds that spreads through the roots. Weeds such as clover, vetch and vetch can indicate fertility problems, which means you have to deal with soil health.

Although weeds are not necessarily what you want to see, they are a relatively minor concern as long as there is enough water. But there can be good signs for soil health, so watch out for weeds to heal and fertilize better in the spring. However, in the cold months, one of the most important things to do is to test the soil. Soil testing is an important way to make sure the soil has the right pH and contains the minerals that plants may need. Soil analyzes help with spring and summer fertilization and soil improvement.

If you need help with gardening or weeding, contact your local extension office or contact me at cburtt@clemson.edu.

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Christopher Burtt coordinator of Urban Horticulture Extension Agent and Master Gardener in Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester counties. Available at cburtt@clemson.edu.


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