Tips for keeping your garden fit as the year wanes

Winterberry Holly on the grounds of the West Tennessee Research and Education Center

Winterberry holly, like this one at UT's West Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center in Jackson, can add a bit of cheer to any winter landscape.  Photo courtesy UTIA.

Gardeners garden all year long, even during the holidays!  Here are some tips from Jason Reeves, horticulturist at the UT Gardens, Jackson, to keep your garden fit as the year wanes.

If you think Christmas lights are the only way to brighten up your outdoor winter scene, you haven't met some of our favorite plants. You will get natural holiday decorations for your landscape as well as a lot of excitement and winter interest from plants like possumhaw (Ilex decidua) and winterberry holly (Ilex verticillata), and redtwig dogwood. In addition, Arizona cypress and ‘Grey Owl’ Juniper are beautiful blue conifers, and their golden “cousins” are attractive, too, for example Chamaecyparis obtuse 'Crippsii', 'Fernspray Gold' and ‘Vintage Gold’.

Small hollies, conifers, twisted willow and redtwig dogwoods make a great addition to winter pots and can be added to the garden come spring.

Check out the sale racks at your local garden center for bulbs that have been reduced in price. If they feel firm and are not moldy, they should still be good. Plant them as soon as possible, though. There is still time for them to get the winter chilling they need, but time is of the essence.

Winter officially begins December 21. Winter is a good time to lime your soil if it is acidic. Your local county extension office can provide you with instructions on how to gather soil samples and send them off for analysis. They will analyze your sample and send recommendations for the amount of lime you need to apply to your lawn and garden. It takes months for lime to react with the soil; so by applying now, you will help bolster your spring garden. Pelletized lime is the easiest and least messy form to apply. Contact your local county UT Extension Office or visit the UT Soil, Pest and Plant Center, online at

If you haven't already winterized your irrigation system, do so right away to avoid broken pipes and costly repairs.

For more gardening tips, sign up for the UT Gardens free e-newsletter online at

The UT Gardens
includes plant collections located in Knoxville, Jackson and Crossville. Designated as the official botanical garden for the State of Tennessee, the collections are part of the UT Institute of Agriculture. The gardens’ mission is to foster appreciation, education and stewardship of plants through garden displays, educational programs and research trials. The gardens are open during all seasons and free to the public.



Jason Reeves
, UT West Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center, 731-424-1643