Happy new year! This is the eighth time I’ve gotten to tell readers this. It hardly seems possible, another year went by so quickly. Let’s commit to making it 2017 a great one, by getting outside and enjoying the beauty of Central Texas.

We could have snow covering the ground, bitter wind chills and have to bundle up to step outside. Many folks may love doing those things or expect them in order to feel like wintertime. But those folks must not be from here!

I love that we have had some cold temperatures, but I also love that I went out Tuesday with short sleeves. This weekend, it’s supposed to be pretty cold again, or so the forecast says. I love that, too. Weather fluctuations are “par for the course” here. So we never run out of things to talk about, right?

I hope you took advantage of some of the nicer, warmer days to get out and observe the conditions of your lawn, landscaping beds and plants. With all the wind we have had, trees should have very few leaves, if any.

The next nice day is a great time to get out your mower, raise the blade up a notch or two, and mow over the fallen leaves. Don’t bag them; just mow them into smaller pieces. This will help them to break down and get more sun onto your turf grass. You may want to rake some of the leaves out of the landscaping before you mow to get them cleared. That sure helps the overall look of the yard. And remember, wear a mask while you rake and mow if you are sensitive to the spores and fungus that will be stirred up. When thick layers of wet leaves lay around, they get pretty nasty.

Another winter activity I have finished is pruning some misshapen evergreens. It’s also a good time to prune old, dead perennials. Remember, don’t pull anything up; things may look dead but they probably aren’t. Wait until spring to determine whether something is dead. If you decide you don’t want a particular plant anymore, then it’s okay to dig that up now.

A commonly overlooked outdoor chore that can be accomplished right now is scraping and cleaning off mud nests from insects, such as wasps, and brushing or spraying off spiderwebs from eaves, light fixtures and gutters. It also is a good time to check gutters to see if leaves or branches are stuck or clogging the downspouts. While you’re up there, check for cracks or separated joints in the guttering.

Even in January, there are several things we can take care of, time and weather permitting. If we keep on top of these things, when spring comes — and it will be here before we know it — we’ll have more time to tend to flowers, plants and turf.

I wish you blessings the whole year through, and thanks so much for reading. Email me with any questions or topics you’d like me to address in future columns.

Darla Horner Menking is an outdoor enthusiast and Herald correspondent. Contact her at darla.menking@gmail.com.

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