Gardening Tips for 2009

Betty Jakum
Adams County Master Gardener

Good gardeners know to take advantage of the benefits offered by every season of the year. Winter with its cold temperatures and bleak landscape provides a forced confinement indoors that has its advantages, too. During this down time, gardeners are given the best opportunity they'll have all the gardening year to read about gardening, mull over colorful seed catalogs all full of hope and promise, and create a list of gardening guidelines or tips to keep in mind during the entire growing season. Below are some gardening tips I've accumulated from my gardening experiences that you may find helpful, beginning with several to keep in mind for taking advantage of what winter has to offer.

Winter doesn't need to be a time away from enjoying your garden. A winter garden can be as beautiful as any other if plants are carefully selected to add interest to the bare landscape. Evergreens, hollies, and plants with colorful bark and interesting form can do just that. Some good choices include Winterberry hollies, Nandina, American Cranberry Bush, Viburnum, Red and Yellow Twig Dogwood, River Birch, and Harry Lauder Walking Stick. If you have the space, a Sycamore tree, with its white-speckled trunk and mottled, peeling bark, is a standout in winter. Ornamental grasses look fantastic in the winter landscape, too, and provide shelter and food for a variety of animals.

Add plants that provide winter color in the landscape.  Even some of summer's showiest blooms
 might have a hard time competing with this vivid Nandina all covered with snow

Cut your own tree next year for Christmas. Not only will you enjoy the beauty and fragrance of a live tree during the holidays, but afterwards the tree can be taken outside and propped up near a bird feeder where it can provide not only a perch but a safe haven for the hardy birds that feed there in winter. Another option for the discarded Christmas tree is to cut the branches from the trunk and scatter them around flower gardens to offer winter protection for perennial plantings. Many people complain about the bother and mess of a live tree, but they have a charm that cannot be duplicated and provide much needed cover to the garden as winter lingers on.

Expand your knowledge of gardening. Read books and articles on plants and gardening. Sign up for classes and workshops offered by local garden clubs and extension offices. Check with the Adams County Extension Office in Gettysburg at 334-6271 to see what's being scheduled for the upcoming months.

Use the internet for researching information about your garden. Everything you ever wanted to know about gardening (or anything else for that matter) can be found on this invaluable resource. My choice for the best search engine is Google. All you need to do is go to the Google website ( and type in some key words pertaining to the information you are seeking. Also available on the Google homepage is a link entitled Images. Clicking on this link gives you wonderful pictures along with lots of information about your topic. Internet access is like having the biggest library in the world right at your own fingertips

Keep a journal to track the plants and/or varieties you use in any given gardening year. Include the names of the plants, the dates planted, and any unusual growing conditions. Don't forget to evaluate how the plants performed at the end of the growing season. A journal is especially helpful if your garden contains a variety of different plants and/or you tend to experiment with different plants and varieties from year to year.

Make a point of introducing at least one new person each year to the joy of gardening. Try especially to get children and young adults excited about gardening; they are our future gardeners. So often these days, children spend too much time indoors watching television or playing video games and miss the joy and excitement that can be found in the garden. Share with others. Instead of keeping unneeded seeds until they get too old to germinate, give them to a gardening relative, neighbor or friend. Perennials are great to share, too. Often gardeners find themselves with certain perennials that grow so well in their gardens that they threaten other plants. Thinning them out gives other plants much appreciated space and provides a great opportunity to share with others.

And finally, take time to enjoy your garden. Often we get so caught up in the planting and maintenance of the garden, we forget to stop and "smell the roses" and so miss the whole point of why we garden in the first place.

Read other articles by Betty Jakum