January Gardening Tips

Monthly Proven Tips and Solutions for Granite State Gardeners

snow covered evergreen

Tips for New Hampshire gardeners in January

Old Christmas trees can be recycled in the garden as roosting and feeding stations for birds, or the boughs can be used to provide extra insulation over garden perennials.

If you have a small garden chipper you may be able to convert your tree into mulch or compost. Pine, fir and spruce chips are excellent mulch for perennial beds, shrubs and trees, or they can serve as a good source of carbon to add to the compost pile.

Avoid using rock salt on driveways or walkways that border gardens or landscape plantings.

Salt can build-up in the soil near where it is applied, affecting soil structure and making it difficult for plants to absorb water. Plants that are sensitive to salt may show signs of leaf scorch in the spring and summer. In general, healthy mature plants will tolerate salt exposure better than newly established or drought-stressed plants. Sand, fireplace ash, or wood shavings will provide traction on ice and only require a little bit of clean-up in the spring. Alternatives are ice melt products composed of magnesium chloride or calcium magnesium acetate (CMA), which have a lower impact on plants and are advertised as being safer for pets and the environment.

Multi-stemmed trees and shrubs with multiple leaders (main stems) such as arborvitae, juniper, Rose of Sharon and birch can be very susceptible to breakage from heavy snow and ice.

Support small trees and shrubs by tying their leaders together with nylon stockings or cloth strips. Make sure ties aren’t so tight that they are cutting into the bark of the plant, and that they are loose enough to allow some stem movement. Remove ties in the spring as soon as the snow melts to prevent girdling.

Prune tree and shrub limbs damaged by snow or ice to prevent bark tearing.

It is almost always better to remove broken limbs rather than try to save them with supports or ties. This rarely works, and only prolongs the inevitable. Dead, diseased, or damaged branches can be removed at any time of the year. Carefully removing torn branches by making clean cuts back to living wood can help limit the spread of decay and protect the health of your plant. If a tree or shrub is severely split or broken you may consider replacing it in the spring.

January is a great time to select and order flower and vegetable seeds.

Ordering early ensures that you will get the seeds you want and have them on hand when it’s time to start planting. Remember to purchase seed from reliable companies based in the northeast in order to grow plants that are adapted to the climate in New Hampshire. Learn about new vegetable varieties in this upcoming webinar.

Many houseplants require a fair amount of humidity in order to thrive, something that most homes lack in the winter months.

A humid environment can be created with a humidifier, by spraying plants periodically with a misting bottle, or by filling a pan with pebbles and a skim of water and placing the plant on top, making sure that the bottom of the pot is not submerged in water. Signs that your plants need higher humidity are brown leaf edges and abnormal leaf drop. Ferns, tropical foliage plants and flowering plants usually benefit from increased humidity. Cacti and succulents will tolerate dry air in the home and require no special treatment.

Make an inventory of plants in your landscape, noting their location, health and past performance.

Plan changes now so that you can make a budget and research which species and varieties are likely to thrive on your property. Take stock of how much direct light plants will receive in certain areas, as well as the general characteristics of the soil (is it sandy, well-drained, consistently moist etc.), which growing zone you live in and if you anticipate pest issues, like browsing by deer.


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Got questions? The Ask UNH Extension Infoline offers practical help finding answers for your home, yard, and garden questions. Call toll free at 1-877-398-4769, Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., or e-mail us at answers@unh.edu.

Author(s)

Emma Erler
Landscape and Greenhouse Field Specialist
Instructor Field Specialist
Phone: 603-641-6060
Office: Cooperative Extension, Taylor Hall, Durham, NH 03824

Ask UNH Extension
Master Gardeners & Extension Specialists
Phone: 1-877-EXT-GROW (1-877-398-4769)