CENTREVILLE — After almost an entire year of quarantining, it is a great time to pause and reflect on last year's gardening success and failures.
The University of Maryland Extension Master Gardener program offers the following tips to help get your mind and garden ready for the upcoming growing season.
Do not handle hairy poison ivy vines wrapped around trees. Be aware that the offending oil of poison ivy — urushiol — is active and can produce symptoms during any time of the year.
Also, be very careful not to bring firewood into the house with poison ivy vines attached
Check your trees — especially evergreens — for bagworms. Remove and destroy any that you find.
Heavy snow and ice loads can damage shrubs. Using an upward motion, gently sweep snow loads off shrubs to prevent breakage.
However, oftentimes bent or weighed down branches will spring back after the snow and ice melts.
In preparing for the upcoming planting season, order fruit plants from mail-order companies in January and February for early spring planting.
Decide on a good site for a new vegetable garden— one that is sunny, level and has access to water.
Make a garden plan and put it in a notebook or garden journal. Start recording ideas and notes from reading.
Purchase a high-low thermometer to track weather patterns throughout the year.
Order catalogs and seeds, especially if you want to start slow-growing, unusual or heirloom varieties indoors under lights.
Also, test the viability of saved or leftover seeds.
Place 20 of them on a moist paper towel, roll it up and put in a perforated plastic bag. Set the bag on top of the refrigerator. In seven days, count the sprouted seeds. If less than 70 percent sprouted, toss out the remaining seeds from the pack and buy new ones.
Bird feeder maintenance also is important. Be sure to clean your bird feeders once every two weeks or more if seeds get wet or if sick birds visit your feeder. Dirty feeders can spread disease. Spoiled seeds can make birds sick.
Bird's remember, so feeding them regularly brings them back. Provide high-fat feed during the winter.
Birds also are thirsty, so clean your birdbaths regularly. Even during winter, birds need a reliable source of freshwater.
Many of you likely still have Christmas trees up, but when you decide to take them down recycle them. Recycled Christmas trees can be used for mulch, soil erosion barriers and many other environmentally friendly uses.
Go to mde.maryland.gov/programs/Marylander/Pages/ChristmasTreeRecycling.aspx to learn more.
When it comes to your indoor houseplants, be careful not to overwater them. Most houseplants should be watered only when the top of the growing medium begins to dry out.
Cut back or stop fertilizing houseplants unless they are grown under supplemental lighting.
Did you receive amaryllis for the holidays? Keep it in a sunny window. After it is done flowering, the plant will produce leaves and may bloom again with proper care.
Indoor herb plants benefit from daily misting and full sun windows.
Avoid the temptation to start seeds too early. Check seed packets for detailed information on starting various types of flowers. Do not depend on windowsill light to grow these seedlings.
To avoid pests, keep in mind that Indian meal moths are a common problem of grains and grain products, cereals, birdseeds, dried pet food and more. You may see adult moths flying, larvae crawling or webbing. Always check bulk foods before purchasing for signs of meal moth infestation.
Also, don't store firewood inside your home. Only bring in enough to burn at one time. Bark and other wood-boring beetles may emerge inside the home.