A GROWING CONCERN: New year, new to do list

HAPPY NEW (WET) Year — may all your gardens be weed-free and your flowers and bushes grow as fast as the horsetail.

Here we go, another winter season in another year of fantastic gardening here on the fabulous, never hot, never cold, Olympic Peninsula.

First, I must put out there, one more time, a plea for help, as you, the gardeners of the Peninsula, responded so well.

Together we hung 88,000 lights at the Winter Ice Village in downtown Port Angeles; but alas, down they must come.

Tomorrow, Jan. 7, from 10 am to 4 pm, we are meeting at the rink to take them down.

If you would like, you can take as many as you want home with you.

But just like any good perennial garden or flower bed — they must be cut down in order to perfectly finish the job, so please, if you can, come and help us with this job.

And talking about jobs: Today is day eight of mid-early winter which means the sunlight is getting longer at both ends of the day. Make use of it with these gardening chores:

The compost pile

If you have a compost pile this time of year has its own concerns. First make sure you stir or turn over the pile. Decomposition has heat as one of its functions.

Every few weeks, you stir the pile. The outside crust of your compost pile won’t just sit there and turn moldy.

Too much moisture can also be detrimental. Too much water can radically slow down the process. Think about all the water we just had.

Check your pile carefully. Does it sit in a well-drained area? Are you in an area where rain just saturates the heap?

For most, a tarp over the pile every other week or during massive downpours does a perfect job of shielding against excessive moisture.

Remember, air is another mandatory element of composting. Do not put tarps or plastic atop your compost pole — it won’t be able to breathe.

Keep a few inches between the cover and the pile.


I am extremely concerned about our higher than normal temperature this year.

Just this week I have seen French pussy willows in bloom, geranium baskets still flowering, willow trees trying to re-green leaves and witch hazel in flower — I even saw a scotch broom in bloom.

Get those pruners, lopers and saws in top condition.

Survey your plants. Assess not only their current growth but determine where this year’s growth will go. You will then have an inventory of pruning tasks.

I will in the next few weeks write solely on pruning; but if you must, prune your fruit trees.


Your houseplants are sitting in your closed-up house, heaters on, getting dusty.

January is a perfect time for a tropical shower. Using tepid water, place your plants in a bath and shower them down.

Be vigorous and splash all the leaves. Upside, downside, right, left and all around, wash the heck out of them.

Then let them stand for a few hours, shaking out the water on them a few times.

Don’t be alarmed by the falling leaves. This is a natural response to winter’s sunlight.

Do not fertilize now or prune them.

Repeat this shower in February then again in March for optimum results.


Now is the required time to strip all remaining large, old leaves from your plants.

Are your roses in full bloom and full of rust and black spot?

Do not, again contrary to rose books, prune them.

Our weather is just too mild here.

Stripping the leaves will help set dormancy without stimulation.

Remove old leaves from the soil surface. That is how the diseases re-enter your roses.

Finally, add a new couple of inches of fresh mulch and never ever put the diseased leaves in the compost pile.

Garden/seed catalogs

Order as many catalogs as you can. February is the time to start ordering. If you buy a garden magazine now there will be numerous offers for plant, seed and bulb catalogs.

Block out Feb. 20

The magical mystery garden bus will be making its 20th annual foray to the Northwest Flower and Garden Show.

It is limited to roughly 48 people and can barely hold all the excitement, energy and information.

It is one big rolling garden party you do not want to miss. Call 360-417-1639 for details.

There you go, an easy job list for the new year.


Andrew May is an ornamental horticulturist who dreams of having Clallam and Jefferson counties nationally recognized as “Flower Peninsula USA.” Send him questions c/o Peninsula Daily News, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362, or email [email protected] (subject line: Andrew May).

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