Winter Tips

Adjust watering schedule for autumn, winter

WateringCan_NLEven though winter is here and plants are dormant they still need winter watering in our high desert climate.

We recommend thoroughly watering trees, shrubs, lawns and perennial beds at least once a month. Remember to water when temperatures are above 40 degrees, and with enough time for the water to fully soak into the soil.

Added water, along with a thick bed of mulch, will help protect plants throughout the harsh winter months.

Newly planted trees, shrubs and perennials are the most at risk. Try to water these 2-3 times a month. Fall-laid sod will also need extra moisture.

Finally, make sure that you disconnect and drain your hose after watering to avoid freezing pipes and to prolong the life of your garden hose. Please contact us with any questions. 

Winter care for woody shrubs, trees

Don’t forget to water your woody trees and shrubs! Pick a day through the winter that is over 40 degrees and water thoroughly through the winter.

Late winter is also a good time to prune deciduous trees and shrubs. Thinning cuts help encourage growth and increase the amount of light reaching inside branches.

Winter is also a great time to look at shape and structure of deciduous trees, find pest infestations and prune weakened branches (before Spring storms decide which branches should go for you!)

Winterize with rose collars

Hybrid Tea, Grandiflora, and other grafted roses need more winter protection than other varieties. Prune back long canes in November to protect them from snow damage, or wait until mid-April and leave the rose hips for winter interest. Remove debris from the base of the roses, and use a rose collar to hold soil, compost, straw or bark over the rose crown. We carry rose collars, which can be reused year after year. In the spring, the collars can also be used to protect starter tomatoes.

Start seeds now for strong, healthy plants

The winter months are an excellent time to get a head start on your garden! Seeds are a wonderful and cost-effective way to try new varieties of vegetables.

After choosing your seeds, be sure to follow specific starting instructions. Provide a draft-free 65-75 degree area, and a sunny window or full-spectrum grow light to get seedlings off to a great start. A special seed starting heating pad can help regulate temperatures and give your seedling the warm soil they love.

Fort Collins Nursery offers trays, plastic pots, peat pots, potting mix, and of course hundreds of varieties of organic, heirloom and traditional seed.

Questions? Ask one of our Garden Shop or Greenhouse representatives for ideas or recommendations to make this year’s garden something to talk about!

Dormant oil to knock out insects

If you have had an insect infestation, and are worried it will return to plague your fruit, shade and ornamental trees, dormant oil can be applied in late winter and early spring.

Dormant oils work to choke off insects where they over-winter inside trees. Some oils poison the pest insects, but leave many beneficial insects alone. Dormant oils, which are typically made from organic material, are safe to use on most plants, and around areas frequented by children or pets.

There are some oil-sensitive plants like junipers, cedar and maple the cannot tolerate dormant oil. Check with a Garden Shop representative if dormant oil is right for you.

Add amaryllis for indoor winter color

Amaryllis (Hippeastrum) are a great way to bring some magnificent color indoors during the gray winter months. Although they naturally bloom in the Spring, many are ‘forced’ to bloom around the holidays, making themamaryllis popular holiday plants with their large, showy, log-lasting blooms.  Their distinctive lily-like blossoms sit, often in clusters of up to four or five, atop the long thick stalks that emerge from the bulb.

These bulbs are easily grown indoors in a container. To grow an amaryllis in a container, plant the bulb in well-drained soil and leave the top one third of the bulb exposed. Place in a bright area with temperatures about 70F. Once foliage emerges, water regularly. Avoid over-watering to avoid root rot. When the bulb begins to bloom, you may find that the flower-heavy stalks need support. Use a slender bamboo stake and a plant-tie to keep the flower stalks upright.

After flowering has ceased, cut off the flower stalk. If the container has drainage, you can leave the bulb in this pot for years to come. If it does not have drainage, transplant it with fresh soil into a pot that allows drainage. Be sure to leave the top third of the bulb exposed. Large strap-like leave will push up out of the bulb. Keep the plant in a warm well-lit location, fertilizing every few weeks with a balanced fertilizer to help the bulb store nutrients for next year’s blooms. Water it often enough to keep the leaves from wilting or turning brown along the edges

In mid-August, stop feeding and cut watering back to significantly. In September, stop watering completely. Once the leaves have wilted and turned yellow, cut them off and move the bulb to a cool dark area, between 40-50 degrees, and forget about it for the next two months.

After two months have passed, water your Amaryllis once and wait for some green to appear. Once signs of life are apparent, move the bulb back into a warm light location and let the magic begin all over again!

Prune in early spring, late winter for a healthy tree

While light pruning can be done any time of year, early spring and late fall and are an excellent time for full-tree pruning. Prune before the tree has begun setting leaves so its resources are devoted to recovery.

Dead and diseased branches should be removed first, then secondary cuts for shape, structure (no lopsided trees!) and ventilation.

More on how to prune fruit trees or shade trees.

We also recommend professional arborists to do the work for you. Tall, old or diseased trees are not only an eyesore, but also a hazard for people and property.

We’d like to thank the folks at The Davey Tree Expert Company and Lumber Jack & Jill Tree Service for helping us clean up our long-established trees on the nursery. We will also be using the mulch they created to help over-winter the stock trees.

Cleaning beds, amending soils

Think there’s nothing to do in the winter garden? Think again! When garden soils soften, and days grow warm, amending soil and cleaning garden beds is the best preparation for a successful spring!

Rake leaves, grass clippings, and the remains of the vegetable garden from forgotten corners of the lawn and garden then add to your compost pile. If you use a pre-emergent for weeds, apply it now, but avoid areas that seeds will be planted directly into the soil.

Add amendments to garden soil and gently work it in (but avoid working the soil when it is very wet to avoid compacting your garden). We can help match our bagged amendments to your soil needs, but remember, nothing helps more than having your soil tested by Colorado State University’s Cooperative Extension office. Soil test kits are available at Fort Collins Nursery.

Spider mites love dry indoor conditions

Colorado winters are often a very dry time of year, both inside and out. This warm, dry indoor climate is an optimal condition for spider mites, a common plant pest.

Spider mites are small, and difficult to spot. Inspect your houseplants for small flecks of discoloration and leaf loss. They also produce areas of webbing, which are easier to see. Bring in a sample of your troubled plant, and a Greenhouse representative can help diagnose it.

The best prevention for spider mites is proper watering. Raising the humidity level for houseplants creates an unfriendly environment for mites. Spraying webbed areas with a jet of water can also help. Try grouping houseplants together, or introducing a humidifier. If these methods do not work, contact us for insecticide recommendations.

Tis the season … for fungus gnats

Have you noticed an annoying visitor that you haven’t been able to get rid of? We’re not talking about a relative that’s overstayed their holiday welcome … we’re talking fungus gnats. These small black flies live and breed in the soil of houseplants.

With each watering, more gnats are given a warm, moist incubator for nearly 200 eggs in their 10-day lifespan. In order to get rid of fungus gnat larvae, allow houseplant soil to dry out between waterings. If needed, repot with fresh potting soil, which offers less degraded material for gnat larvae to snack on.

If the infestation is particularly bad, Fertilome offers an Indoor/Outdoor Multi Purpose Insect Spray that works when applied to the soil. A Sticky Whitefly Trap also works to capture gnats, but only controls the flying adults