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Some winter days, it’s tempting to fetch a cup of coffee, a good book, sit in a rocking chair and forget about our ever-changing weather. Today, I’m preferring fiction, but my new seed catalogues are still waiting for 2020 decisions to be made. 

As home gardening has become more popular, the best seeds can sell out quickly. January is a good time to decide what went well last year and what didn’t. What needs to continue, what needs to change? One task that I will be doing, before ordering more seeds, is to go through and edit the seeds saved from previous years. Many of those seeds will still be usable, either by me or friends. Consistency is important in seeds, and when I find a favorite heirloom vegetable or flower, I try to save seeds for future years. This is a fun project for children.

Houseplants and other tender plants that have been brought inside need to be checked at least weekly for watering and insects. They can occasionally be placed in the shower and sprayed with cool water to keep them healthy. 

Neem oil and insecticidal soap can be used if needed. Follow product instructions. I buy spray bottles because they are easier to apply. Houseplants can help with air quality in our homes, and many of them require very little care. 

If you have Hellebores, now is the time to remove any excessive or worn out foliage and clean up around the plants. This allows better views of the winter blooms. Later, save the tiny seedlings, if you are lucky enough to have them, and transplant or share them. Hellebores are hated by deer and can be used to somewhat protect other plants from deer browsing.

Raised garden beds are so easy for people of all ages. Now is a good time to do a soil test and begin to make changes if required. A pH test, the acidity or alkalinity, of the soil should be tested. Having a pH meter is handy, and one can be purchased inexpensively. Wood ashes are free and can be used in place of lime to raise the pH. However, they should be used cautiously and sparingly. 

Now is a good time to root hardwood cuttings of shrubs such as Hollies and Azaleas.

As long as the ground isn’t frozen, trees and shrubs can be planted. They should get a good start with all this rain.

Pruning can be done on many dormant plants unless the wood is frozen. Do not prune any spring-flowering shrubs and trees, such as Forsythia, Quince, Spirea, Redbud, and Magnolia. They already have their flower buds in place. However, these spring-flowering shrubs and trees are great for forcing blooms inside the home in winter. If branches are cut for forcing, proper cuts should be made that enhance the shape of the plant.

Tools — one of my soapbox subjects for January. I love good tools, but I’m confessing that I often put them away improperly. My father would be appalled. January is a great time to spend a few hours caring for those tools that are meant to be listed in our wills. 

Happy Gardening.

Gardening Partners is a non-profit founded in 2003 to serve Dickson County with gardening education and advice.  Readers may submit gardening questions by email:, on the website:, or by mail:  PO Box 471 Dickson TN 37056

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