General Garden Care

Garden Care

Order seed, bulb, and nursery catalogs to assist in planning your garden for the new year. To help you choose the best plants for your garden, take advantage of the Garden's online resource Illinois' Best Plants, as well as its Plant Information Service, Lenhardt Library, and the Joseph Regenstein, Jr. School of the Chicago Botanic Garden. See seed-starting advice in "Indoor Plant Care" below.

Recycle Christmas tree branches (cut into 2- to 3-foot sections), swags, wreaths, and other evergreen material as mulch for garden and perennial beds. Lightweight, open evergreens permit moisture to reach the soil but also insulate the roots and crowns of plants from the freeze-thaw-freeze cycle of Midwest winters. An alternative use for a holiday tree is to set it in the backyard and decorate it with bird seed and suet ornaments for winter birds. Continue to supply fresh water for birds.

When clearing driveways or shoveling walks, distribute snow loads equitably on shrubs and garden beds.

Continue to use potassium- or calcium-based deicing products on walkways rather than sodium-based ones. If possible, broadcast sand on slippery surfaces. Always shovel snow before using any de-icing product.

During periods of winter thaw, water garden beds, turf, and plants that have received salt spray from roads.

Monitor plants for signs of damage from animals, ice, snow, or wind.

Keep ponds free of ice by installing small pumps or pouring warm water over ice as it begins to form. Don’t bang ice with a heavy object if you have fish in the pond.

Continue to keep the garden tidy by removing any broken or fallen branches from the yard. If small plants have heaved out of the ground, gently press them back with your hands; avoid compressing thawed ground with heavy boots. Retie any vines that might have been torn from their supports.