The garden and landscape calendar is 12 months long. While there is not much activity in the garden and the grass is not growing, there is still plenty to do.
Performing routine maintenance on tools is a good wintertime activity no matter what your outdoor interests. It is a good idea to sharpen the cutting tools, from chainsaw chains and hedge clippers to axes, mower blades and loppers.
A squirt of oil on the pivot bolt of loppers and hand pruners helps ensure they will be ready when called on this spring. Changing the oil, oil filter and sparkplug and cleaning the air filters in the lawn mower is a good start. Speaking of starting, if you have neglected to put fuel stabilizer in the gas tank, now is a good time to do so. Then start the engine and run it for a few minutes to make sure the fuel stabilizer is drawn into the carburetor.
For hand tools like shovels and rakes — anything that gets put into the soil — wash them free of soil and then dip them into a 10 percent solution of chlorine bleach to kill any disease-causing fungi, nematodes and bacteria and let the tool air dry.
If you have an irrigation system for your lawn, now is an excellent time to run an irrigation audit. An irrigation audit looks at the water needs of your landscape plants and measures those needs against the real performance of your irrigation system and then recommends any changes needed.
While one can learn to do a creditable job oneself, your friendly neighborhood irrigation installer or landscape contractor already knows how, and I suspect they would welcome the work. Just as no battle plan survives first contact with the enemy, no irrigation system actually performs in the real world as designed. They all take some tweaking to get the right amount of water to the right place.
If you do not have an in-ground irrigation system and are thinking of getting one, now — in the winter — is the best time to build it. Not just to have it ready for spring, but to cause the least lasting injury to your existing landscape plants. It is the same reason we plant trees in the winter — the top is not very active and this gives the roots a chance to re-establish themselves before spring and summer growth place demands on the root system.
All right, you know I am an ag agent, so you knew this was coming: If it has been three or more years since the last soil test on your garden or lawn, it is time for another one. You can pick up soil test bags at Tim and Dave’s Nursery, Landmarks Nursery or the Breezeway in the Richmond Hill area or at the Extension Office in Pembroke. It takes months for lime or sulfur to react with soil and change pH. If you want to be ready for spring planting, test now and treat this month.
If moles and voles are a problem for your yard but you still want to plant bulbs, you can make some baskets out of quarter-inch hardware cloth at least twice as deep as bulb planting depth and set them into your planting beds with just the edge above ground. Wear leather gloves, long pants and long sleeves unless you want to donate blood. The wire ends are wicked sharp and have a talent for finding exposed skin after cutting the cloth.
Now with all these things to do, nobody is going to call me with plans to lay sod before May, right?
Gardner lives in Keller and is the UGA extension agent for Glynn County, also serving South Bryan. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.