Midwinter tasks in the garden | NevadaAppeal.com

Midwinter tasks in the garden

JoAnne Skelly
For the Appeal

When sunny, warm days have you itching to be in the garden, there are a number of garden tasks you can accomplish in midwinter. With spring only six weeks away, you may want to get an early start on yard cleanup.

Perennial flowers come back each year. During winter, the foliage turns brown and usually lays limp on the ground, looking rather unsightly. Daylilies are a good example of this. You can remove all the dead leaves now. This will not damage the plants, because they have not yet started their spring growth.

Iris can be cleaned up by removing dead lower leaves and cutting back the remainder of the plant to 4- to 6-inch fans. Cut blue flax, coreopsis, Shasta daisies and mums right to the ground. The new growth will develop from the root ball when the soil and air temperatures are right.

The temperatures have been great for pruning. However, do not prune forsythia, lilac or other spring-flowering shrubs now. Wait until after they bloom, or you will prune off all the flowers! Do not prune roses until mid-April.

You can prune junipers and other evergreens at this time. They will look better and grow better if you carefully prune them back to a junction of a branch with the trunk, rather than shearing them with hedge clippers.

This is a good time to prune fruit trees, while you can see their shape, the suckers growing up from the bottom of the trunk, and the water sprouts growing straight up from the branches. Fruit does not develop on suckers and water sprouts, so prune these to encourage the energy to go to the fruiting buds.

One of the hardest things on plants in Northern Nevada is the dry, sunny winter. Evergreen trees continue to lose water through their needles all winter, and since roots never truly go dormant, a moist soil is important to maintain healthy trees, whether deciduous or evergreen. Watering is a very necessary chore during long dry spells. This is particularly true for trees and shrubs installed during the past year or two.

Drag the hoses out or turn on the sprinklers, and soak the ground around each plant out to the drip line. Rewinterize the irrigation system or drain hoses when you are finished to prevent freeze damage. All roses, no matter when they were planted, will benefit from a couple of gallons of water. Golf courses are watering their greens, but most average lawns will be fine for a few more dry weeks.

Most importantly, do not be fooled by the false spring. Presidents Day weekend is infamous for heavy snows and rains. Longtime Nevadans remember freezes in every month of the year. Our average last frost date is May 15, which means some areas will warm sooner, and some later. Be patient!

• JoAnne Skelly is the Carson City/Storey County Extension educator for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension.