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Garden Gossip

January, 2021

Fruit Plants

If you are planning to increase the size of your fruit plant area, our fruit trees as well as blackberries and blueberries should be arriving about the middle of January. They can all be plant now and will benefit from the cooler weather and rain. When planting apples and pears you must have two different varieties for cross pollination. Blueberries and muscadines also require another variety for cross pollination. Blackberries are self fruitful and only one variety is needed. Fruit plants should be planted in full sun and in soil that has good drainage. Always water in your plants to remove air pockets.

Call the retail shop at 205-646-0069 before coming to the retail shop to make sure that the plants are here.

Wildflower Seed and Bulbs

January is the last time you should plant wildflower seed. Many of the seeds require cold weather to germinate and if planted after January they will not have time to mature and flower before the weather gets too hot for them. Prepare the soil by lightly tilling or raking the area. Then sow the seed with 1 part seed to 4 parts sand. This helps to disperse the seed so there won’t be clumps of seed in one place and none in the other. Then water everything in.

About the middle of January we will have plants available for most of the wildflower seed that we carry. Be sure that when you buy the plants that you set them out right away so that they will have time to mature and flower.

Spraying Fruit Plants

January is the start of our annual spray program here at Petals. We spray all our fruit trees with a Dormant Oil spray at this time. The purpose of this spray is to kill over wintering insects and disease. Spray with dormant oil only if the temperature is above 40 degrees. Note: Do NOT apply oil sprays within 48 hours of hard freezes or temperatures below 30F. The spray could increase freeze damage.

There is an additional spray of copper that may be applied for disease control, fungal and bacterial. To be on the safe side, separate the different sprays by three weeks time.

Remember no planting, pruning or spraying within 48 hours of a hard freeze.


Late winter or early spring is a good time to prune Limelight Hydrangeas. Since they bloom on new wood. Any heavy pruning should be done before the new growth emerges. They can be cut back to about 18-inches from the ground. The same would be true of Little Lime. It should be cut back in winter or early spring since it also blooms on new growth.

Don’t prune butterfly bushes until after the last frost. Most needled evergreens do not need regular pruning but if yours is getting out of hand now would be the time to do it. You may prune your Crepe Myrtles and Lilac Chaste trees. Prune hollies early before they set their flower buds. Repeat flowering roses may be pruned about the middle of February. Don’t prune azaleas or Rhododendrons until after they have bloomed. January would be a good time to tidy up any perennial grasses such as Pampas Grass, Zebra Grass and Miscanthus. Cut them down to ground level before any new shoots appear. The same holds true for any Carex grass. They should also be cut down to ground level before new growth emerges.

Muscadines should also be pruned in January and February.

Vegetable Garden

Seeds for your spring vegetable garden should be ordered now. Tomato seeds can be started by the end of the month. We will also have our pre-order tomato program available again this year. You can order a flat of 18 or just one plant. They will be available online soon.

Cabbage, broccoli and all the brassia family as well as lettuce seeds can be started indoors so you will be ready for transplanting in spring.

If you think you might like to try your hand a growing potatoes they should be planted by Valentines day. Since potatoes are a member of the nightshade family choose an area to plant them where peppers, tomatoes or eggplant have not been plant for the last two years.

Use seed potatoes and cut them leaving at least two eyes for each piece. I cut mine up a few days ahead of planting time so the cut edges would dry. I felt this kept them from rotting.

Dig shallow rows about two or three feet apart 6 or 7 inches deep. Place the potato pieces in cut side down with the eyes facing up. Cover with soil and then I mulched with wheat straw. The wheat straw helped keep the weeds down.

Once they started growing I had to make sure all the new potatoes were covered with soil or straw to prevent them from having green areas that are bitter tasting.

You may harvest ‘new potatoes’ about 2 to 3 weeks after the plants stop flowering. You can do this without really disturbing the whole plant. Just feel around with your fingers and get the small potatoes. Leave the others to mature for about 3 additional weeks.

Harvest when the plants start dying down which in our area is late April or May.


Hellebores are a welcome sight blooming in late winter or early spring. Aside from unusual flowers, hellebores have attractive green foliage. They should be planted in well drained soil in filtered sun or a shady location. Once established, their care in minimal.

Fertilize your hellebores or Lenten Roses with bone meal and lime for increased bloom. As with most perennials they need to be fertilized when the new growth appears and after flowering. You can also use a slow release fertilizer such as 12-6-6 and if you have compost use it on the hellebores too.

Remove all the old dead leaves to make room for the new leaves and flowers.

Citrus Trees

Remember to cover your citrus if your trees are planted in the ground or if in pots move them to a garage or other protected location. Your citrus trees need the sunshine so don’t leave them indoors or covered any longer than you have to. You don’t want the tree dropping leaves because it is not getting enough light. The winter cloth that we use is breathable and can be left on for a few days as long as the temperatures are low but it also should be removed when it warms up.


Keep fertilizing your pansies with a liquid fertilizer. Use a fertilizer that has 50% of its nitrogen in the nitrate form. Formulations with nitrogen derived from potassium nitrate (KNO3), calcium nitrate [Ca(NO3)2] or magnesium nitrate [Mg(NO3)2] are recommended. These formulations also have little effect on soil pH, so nutrient deficiencies are less likely to occur. We carry Southern Ag Start, Root, and Bloom, it encourages good root growth and lots of flowers.Pansy blooms should also be removed not only for looks but to keep the plants from seeding which consumes the plant’s energy. Trim lanky branches periodically to encourage compact growth and improved flowers.