cedar waxwing bird eating berries on a hawthorn tree

Cedar waxwing eating hawthorn berries. Photo: Miri Talabac

Updated: January 13, 2022

Outdoor yard and garden tips

Sustainable Gardening

  • Make a place for birds. Hang up a bird nesting box and choose some native plants for birds to include in your garden this spring. Continue to feed wild birds through the remaining winter weeks. Black oil sunflower seeds and suet cakes are a good choice for a wide variety of birds. Keep feeders clean and provide fresh water. Birds eat a lot insects in the spring and summertime -- good natural pest control!
  • Limit the use of salt to melt ice and snow. Learn how to melt ice safely. The Maryland Lawn Fertilizer Law prohibits the use of fertilizer products to melt ice and snow on steps, sidewalks, or driveways.
  • Set up a system to compost kitchen food scraps and yard waste. Check your local city/county ordinances first.

Edible plants

  • If you want to grow vegetables, flowers, or herbs next spring and your soil is especially poor, consider building a raised bed and fill it with a purchased mixture of topsoil and leaf compost. Or plant a container garden.
  • Check the germination rate of old seed. Place 20 seeds between moistened paper towels roll up the towel and place it in a plastic bread bag. Put the bag in a warm location and check after 5-7 days to see what percentage has germinated. Discard seed lots with less than 75% germination.
  • Cover onions, leeks, and garlic in your garden with row cover to protect them from allium leafminer damage. Keep them covered through the spring.
  • Keep garden beds covered with shredded leaves, straw, or bark mulch to minimize the risk of soil erosion and nutrient run-off.
  • Buy fresh seed locally or order from mail-order seed companies. Select cultivars with resistance to diseases that have been a problem in your garden.

Trees & Shrubs

  • Examine the base of a shrub for signs of vole damage if you notice dead stems or branches. This is a fairly common occurrence on mugo pine, cherry laurel, azalea, boxwood, and junipers. Voles are a type of field mouse that takes cover in deep mulch (a good reason not to use more than 2-3 inches of mulch). They feed on roots, crowns, and above-ground wood. Snow cover can also provide shelter for voles that tunnel on the surface of lawns. The tunneling becomes evident when the snow melts.

Flowers

  • Seeds for some types of flowers -- sweet peas, geraniums, begonias, and impatiens need to be started 10-12 weeks before the last expected frost. 
  • Spring bulbs can still be planted if the ground is not frozen. Inspect the bulbs and plant only the solid, healthy ones as bulbs can deteriorate when stored.  They may still bloom this year but will not be as vigorous. Do not cut back the green foliage that emerges, let it die back naturally. 

Pests

  • Scale insects can be managed with a dormant oil spray (horticulture oil) anytime that trees and shrubs are dormant. Be sure that temperatures are expected to remain above freezing for a 24 hour period after spraying. Read the product label. 
  • Inspect trees for spotted lanternfly egg masses and remove them.

 Indoor plant and insect tips

Indoor plants

pink moth orchid flower
Phalaenopsis (Moth orchid)
  • Day length is increasing and the sunlight is more intense. Houseplants will begin to show signs of new growth. It is time to start fertilizing your indoor plants. 
  • Leaf yellowing and leaf drop houseplants can be a result of low light conditions combined with overwatering. Spider mites are another possible cause.
  • Anthurium, moth orchid, African violets, kalanchoe, cyclamen, succulent gardens, and air plants (very low maintenance) all make nice gifts to brighten up any interior space.

Pests

  • Clothes moths and carpet beetles are the two most common, damaging fabric pests. The larvae or immatures cause the damage, not the adult moth or beetle. Knowing how to prevent this problem is key to their management.