Start off your garden year right by laying the foundation for a great garden.
White Japanese Irises
Garden catalogs will keep you daydreaming.
  • When shoveling or blowing snow, try to dump it atop perennials -- as long as it doesn't have any salt in it. Snow is often called "white mulch" and a good blanket of it will protect plants from temperature extremes.
  • Use calcium chloride instead of sodium chloride on your walks. It does less damage to plants. Or, better yet, use sand, which doesn't hurt your plants a bit.
  • If you're feeling ambitious and eco-friendly, instead of leaving your Christmas tree on the curb, cut off the branches and lay them around the bases of roses or over perennials as a winter mulch. Less to put in the landfill!

Know Your USDA Zone -- It's vital information, since plant label and catalog descriptions usually list which zones a plant grows best in.

Houseplant Basics -- Houseplant growth this month is slow, so don't fertilize and keep watering to a minimum. For more information, check out our houseplant guide.

Forced Bulbs -- Check on pots of any bulbs you forced late last fall. Most forced bulbs need 12-15 weeks of chilling. Remove them into warmth and sunlight indoors when the tips are 1-2 inches high and/or roots are growing out of the drainage holes

Start Seeds Indoors and Last Frost of the Season -- Start seeds indoors for the very slowest-growing plants, such as parsley, thyme, tarragon, bedding geraniums, and sage. You can also start seeds for the plants you can put outdoors early, well before your region's last frost, including chives, onions, and leeks.

Bird Feeding -- If you've been feeding birds, continue to do so and check feeders to make sure they haven't become clogged. Also, fresh water is important this time of year. Consider adding a heater to your birdbath.

Stored Plant Roots -- Check on any stored plant roots or corms, such as dahlias, tuberous begonias, cannas, or glads, for shriveling or decay. Throw out any that are damaged.

Garden Journal -- If you haven't already, start a garden journal or file. Tuck into it names of plants you like, magazine pictures, plant labels and seeds, and anything else that suits your fancy. If you're feeling crafty, make your own journal.

Garden Planning and Landscaping -- While you're doing your garden planning, check out the entire section on garden planning and landscaping at It covers everything from assessing your landscape needs to putting it down on paper to choosing the best plants for you.

Garden Plans -- For specific ideas and layout plans, go to's Garden Plans. There are a number of great combinations for everything from shade to property lines to front entries.


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