This bird feeder attached by suction cups to a second floor window provides food for the birds but not the bears.

GARDENER’S CHECKLIST: Week of January 12, 2023

As 2023 gets rolling, avail yourself of some eminently practical advice from Ron Kujawski on making arrangements for fruit trees, policing the leaves of houseplants against unruly mobs of spider mites, attracting the most colorful range of bird species, and so much more.

Editor’s Note: This article was previously published in 2021, and is re-printed here with updates from the author.

* Evaluate your landscape and make note of where to plant evergreens as windbreaks. A windbreak can reduce heat loss from your home during the winter and save on fuel costs.

A row of evergreens such as these pine trees can function as a windbreak, preventing heat loss from your home in winter.

* To attract the most diverse range of bird species, use several kinds of bird feeders and fill them with different types of seed or suet. Be aware that bears are attracted to bird feeders. If you live in an area where bears are known to roam, set up the feeders in your neighbor’s yard. Just kidding! However, if there is a history of bear sightings around bird feeders in the neighborhood, it would be wise to place them out of reach or to forego them entirely. Birds really can survive without our assistance. 

* Move house plants around if they are looking a tad unhealthy. It may be that they are not happy with the light, temperature and/or humidity conditions at their existing location. There are many microclimates within a house, and finding the one that best matches its requirements may be all that’s needed to cure a hapless plant.

* Keep an eye out (ouch, that must hurt!) for spider mites on house plants. These mites thrive in dry air, a common commodity in our heated homes during the winter. Use a magnifying glass and check the leaves – top side and bottom – for the tiny, spider-like critters. Isolate any plant with spider mite infestation. Washing the leaves in plain water every day over the course of about a week to ten days should be enough to de-infest the plant. Washing every day is also a good idea for humans.

As microclimates within a home can vary, it may be necessary to move struggling houseplants around until their requirements and a microclimate match.

* Check on the condition of dahlias, cannas, tuberous begonias, gladiolus, and other summer “bulbs” in storage. If stored in sand or peat moss that is too moist, those bulbs may have begun their trip into Mushville.


Anyone thinking of planting fruit trees should start now. Okay, I’ll concede that outdoor conditions are not quite right for planting. However, this is the time to do some planning:

– If ordering by mail, get the order in early to avoid getting shutout of a certain variety.

– Be sure that the trees will be shipped near the time of planting and not in the middle of February.

– Remember that apples and pears need to be cross-pollinated for optimal fruit production, so you’ll need to plant at least two varieties of each of these fruit trees. Peaches, except for Elberta strains, will produce fruit without cross-pollination.

– Evaluate the planting location. Fruit trees need maximum light and good drainage.

– Decide if you want dwarf, semi-dwarf or standard size trees.