Be glad the huge snowstorm brought "dry" snow and lots of wind. Except for plantings on the leeward side of buildings, there was minimal accumulation on evergreens and negligible loss of limb. When snow does weigh down branches, use this method for removal: Starting with the lower branches, jostle them sideways, never downward, which risks breakage.
Coddle your garden and help the planet by reducing municipal waste: collect discarded Christmas trees. The branches are ideal winter mulch, helping to minimize the freeze-thaw effects of a vacillating thermometer. Wait for a hard freeze to put the branches down. Raised beds get priority.
Treat the birds properly. If you start feeding them with a fancy new feeder, you must continue all winter, or have the birds' emaciation on your conscience.
Plant the living indoor Christmas tree ASAP, after it has had several days on the porch adjusting from living room conditions. Plant when the temperature is above freezing, water well, and mulch. (If you did not dig its hole before the cold snap, gird yourself for real labor.)
Make good use of unwanted desk calendars - the booklike variety that displays a week at a time. Turn one into a journal of your 2011 garden. As the year progresses, jot in the day the first crocus blooms, the height of a newly planted sapling, extremes in the weather, and the like.
Save large pieces of Styrofoam that come with electronics; in the spring, put them in the bottoms of big container plantings to lessen weight and cost of potting spoil.
Try to keep a poinsettia for future colorful display only if you are willing to go the extra mile - a rigorous light-exclusion regimen in autumn - and to accept the high possibility of disappointing results.
Rotate amaryllis every few days to keep the stem straight. When the flower fades, cut the stem and continue regular watering to keep foliage healthy into summer, when the process begins for inducing next year's flowers.
Start perusing the spring catalogs. Petunia, tender geranium (pelargonium), begonia, cabbage, broccoli, and leek seed should be ordered soon, for indoor sowing in February. For almost everything else, make lists now, decisions later.
Note also if a seed catalog recommends stratifying or chilling seeds before sowing. These varieties can be ordered now and the seeds, well-sealed, put promptly in the refrigerator or freezer (read instructions closely) for a month to six weeks.
- Michael Martin Mills