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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Gardening: Continue with winter chores – planting bulbs, raking, transplanting, pruning

What looks like a very messy flower bed in reality is a wildlife haven. Seeds on standing plants offer food while the fallen vegetation provides shelter and keeps winter weeds down. The birdbath provides water on warmer days. (Pat Munts/For The Spokesman-Review)
What looks like a very messy flower bed in reality is a wildlife haven. Seeds on standing plants offer food while the fallen vegetation provides shelter and keeps winter weeds down. The birdbath provides water on warmer days. (Pat Munts/For The Spokesman-Review)
By Pat Munts For The Spokesman-Review

Now that the prospects for steady snow are on the horizon, what jobs can gardeners do through the winter? After all, it may be the only thing we can do for the foreseeable future for entertainment.

There is still time to plant bulbs and garlic before the ground freezes. Some of the garden centers are probably running sales on the last of their stocks. Plant them according to the directions and then mark the spot so you don’t dig into them in the spring.

Leaves are slowly coming off the trees so keep raking them off your lawn. The leaves and shredded pine needles can be put into flower beds as mulch.

Don’t get carried away with cleaning out flower beds. Messy beds full of old seed heads and vegetation are food and shelter for all kinds of small critters. Birds and small mammals eat the seeds and burrow into the vegetation for shelter. Early one spring I watched hundreds of lady bugs emerge from a tuffet of grass left standing in the garden. The foliage can be left standing until early spring and then chopped and dropped directly back into the bed. Lawns do need to be cleared of leaves so the grass can get light.

Winter is a good time to move evergreen and deciduous trees if the ground is thawed. To move a tree, dig around the tree near the drip line of the branches working around the tree. Gently pry up the roots and cut them as long as you can. Dig your new hole as deep as the root ball and two to three times as wide so the hole looks like a shallow dish. Place the tree in the hole so that the top of the root ball is at soil level and backfill. Water the tree well with a hose or a bucket. Stake the tree to keep it upright in the wind and snow.

The season is a good time to prune shrubs and trees if they need it. Read up on how to prune your plants so you know how to maintain their natural shape. Maintaining the natural shape of a plant reduces the need for additional pruning in the future. Wait to prune forsythia and lilac until after they flower. Pruning them before they bloom will remove this year’s crop of flowers. Forsythia can be thinned in early May and lilac within two weeks after they’ve finished blooming.

Fruit trees should be pruned in late March before their buds start swelling. Again, do some study on how to prune your specific type of tree. Most often you are going to be removing any dead or broken branches first. Then look for branches that are rubbing or crossing another branch. You don’t have to take a lot of branches out to do a good pruning job. Use only hand saws, pruners or loopers to do the work. The only time you should use a chain saw is if you have to cut the tree down.

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