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Winter chores for the landscape
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Chilly winter days may not seem like the most ideal time for gardening for many people.

However, now is the right time to perform lawn and garden maintenance to help prepare the landscape for the coming spring green-up.

‘Unseasonably' warm days seem to occur often in Georgia, so take advantage of a slightly-less-cold winter day to tidy up the yard.

A little work now will save time and money later and will produce healthier, more fruitful plants.

Winter is a great time to test your soil.

If you are planning a new garden or planning to install new trees, soil testing is a must. Any fertilization you do without a soil test is simply guess work. In most cases, you will be applying too much or too little fertilizer, both of which waste your time and money, and may also injure your plants. It is also a good idea to test the soil of well-maintained gardens to make sure your pH is still within a reasonable range.

Garden lime can take up to three months to neutralize your soil, so testing now will ensure your pH is where it needs to be when you are ready to plant your spring garden. Soil tests are available through the extension office.

Now is a good time to prune many of your trees and shrubs to remove dead wood and shape them.

Fruit trees can also be pruned now for best results. Remember to never prune off more than one-third of the limbs of any plant at one time. If a bush needs severe pruning, save this until late February just before new growth begins.

Avoid pruning early spring-flowering plants, like azaleas, until after they bloom. Winter is a good time to sharpen your pruning equipment. Dull blades may lead to sloppy pruning cuts which can injure your plants.

Another winter chore is cleaning up your flower and landscape beds. Clean up any lingering dead foliage from your plants to prevent disease in the spring.

Many fungi like to overwinter on dead foliage from the previous season.

Remove dead leaves from underneath plants that had spotty or diseased leaves last season. This will save you money on fungicides and give new leaves a head start over diseases.

Now is the best time to perform that much-needed maintenance to all of your lawn mowing and edging equipment. Replace broken or worn blades, tires, filters, lines and spark plugs.

Drain engines or add fuel stabilizer if your machine will be sitting unused for a long period of time. Use a large file to sharpen some of your larger tools, especially your shovel heads.

Winter is also a good time to reorganize your tool shed. Assigning every tool its own space will help you keep organized throughout the entire year.

If you are tired of cutting so much grass and would like to save some water, consider altering your landscape design slightly. Small changes, such as rounding off square corners and expanding landscape beds out a few feet, can make a big difference. Long, sweeping curves can give your yard a more natural and ‘professionally-designed' look.

Round shapes tend to be more appealing to the eye than large, rectangular blocks of turf.

Lawns with rounded edges are also much easier to cut, especially with riding mowers.

Try to get outside within the next few weeks and follow some of these tips to help prepare your home landscape for a successful growing season. A little work now will save many a headache later on in the year.

Clark MacAllister is the Dawson County extension agent. For more information, call (706)265-2442.