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Work Outside During January Thaws

As winter progresses, the walls of the house seem to be closing in on you. It’s just an illusion because you miss being outdoors. My suggestion: make the best of any January thaw(s). Get outside and work on your landscape. Even if it appears to be puttering to you, your plants will appreciate your attention.

January thaws aren’t limited to January. It’s a term that applies to any time the temperature goes above freezing. The temperature will still be crisp but the sun will likely be out, making conditions very pleasant. It won’t be shorts and flip flop weather but you also won’t need a heavy parka.

The first thing to do is take a walk around the yard. Check all the plants for broken branches and stems. Take a pair of pruners with you to cut off any broken branches on shrubs. Don’t just cut them off at the break. If possible, make the cut at ground level or where the broken branch is attached to a larger branch, being careful to leave any collar (appears as swollen tissue at attachment point). The third alternative is to cut just above a leaf or bud. The main thing is to not leave any stubs.

If you see any broken branches up in trees, reach for you phone instead of your pruners. Removing branches from trees is too dangerous for the untrained. Many a property owner has found that out the hard way. Leave tree repairs to our arborists who have the training, equipment and experience to avoid falling or getting struck by a falling branch. And, if something goes wrong, they’re covered by insurance.

If conifer branches are still snow laden, resist the temptation to remove the snow. They can spring back and leave you with pine needle injuries. Nature equipped conifers with the resilience to spring back by themselves as the snow melts.

Pay special attention to plants near the road. Check them for damage from road salt spray. You may have to wrap them with burlap. Check any trees or shrubs wrapped in burlap to be sure they aren’t stressed, and be sure the tops are open so sunlight and water can reach them.

While you’re checking trees and shrubs, be on the lookout for critter damage. Deer damage will be anywhere from eye level to 12 feet. Look down at the base for bite marks by rabbits, mice and moles. Even this late in the season you may have to protect them by wrapping the trunks in hardware cloth or tree wrap.

Containerized plants overwintering in a cold frame would appreciate some fresh air and water. Just prop the cover open while you’re outside, after you’ve watered them. Containerized plants spending the winter on the deck or patio just need watering.

When you finish all the tasks suggested above, you’ll realize that you’ve expended a lot of energy while enjoying the January thaw, whether it comes in January, February or March. A takeaway might be that a gym membership is in order to prepare you for upcoming landscape season.

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