1. Protect your young fruit trees from hungry mice, who can chew the bark off at the soil line, weakening and possibly killing the trees Keep mulch several inches from trunks to keep the mice from hiding under it. Also, consider putting wire-screen mouse guards around the trunks of the trees.
2. Bring pruning tools inside and clean them for the upcoming season. Disassemble hand pruners, and loppers. Sharpen the blades, oil the levers, and remove any rust.
3. If your houseplants are growing tall and leggy, they probably need supplemental light. Move to a brighter location or consider investing in fluorescent lights.
4. Clean bird feeders regularly to avoid the spread of avian diseases. Disinfect the feeder monthly with a solution of 1 part bleach to 9 parts water. Clean droppings off and make sure the bird food isn’t moldy.
5. Spider mites may be a problem for your houseplants because of the dry indoor air. Look for the symptoms they cause- stippling on leaves and fine webbing on new growth. Spray them with insecticidal soap 2 to 3 times a week to kill the mites or small plants can be put over the sink and blasted with water.
6. Send for plant catalogs. Order early because some plants may be in limited supply.
7. Plan this year’s vegetable garden.
8. Prune limbs cracked by heavy snow or ice to prevent further ripping of bark.
9. Keep houseplant leaves away from cold windowpanes.
This morning’s winter weather reminds us to check in on our gardens and house plants as well. Here are some helpful tips for your winter gardening needs:
Tap the evergreen branches gently to remove snow and prevent the branches from breaking.
Check fruits, vegetables, corms and tubers that you have in storage. Sort out any that show signs of disease and dispose of them.
Houseplants may need to be watered more often when the heating system is on.
Amaryllis bulbs may be started now. If they are established bulbs in old pots, two inches of soil should be removed from the surface and replaced with a good, rich mixture.
Deck the Beds – For those who have a real Christmas tree, recycle it after the holidays are through. Cut off branches and use them as insulation over perennials. In the spring, chip or shred the branches to create mulch or add to the compost pile.
Although many see it as a safer alternative to salt, resist using fertilizer to melt ice. This creates nitrogen runoff issues that could damage local bodies of water. Try using calcium chloride, sand or kitty litter instead.
Continue to harvest Brussels sprouts. They’ll typically keep even when buried in snow drifts.
Display poinsettias away from heat sources and cold drafts. Keep soil consistently moist, but not soggy. Poinsettias that dry out droop dramatically and drop their flowers.
Don’t walk on frozen grass, especially if there is no snow cover. Without the protection of snow, grass blades are easily broken causing die-back in your lawn.
If you have friends or family that like to garden, think of gardening gifts for the holidays. Books, gloves, hand tools, weather instruments, and fancy pots are some fun ideas to consider!
1. Be sure not to store apples or pears with vegetables. The fruits give off ethylene gas which speeds up the breakdown of vegetables and will cause them to develop a strange taste.
2. Bring out the bird feeders and stock them with bird seed for the birds. Remember to provide fresh water for them too.
3. Rake and dispose of apple and cherry leaves. Good sanitation practices reduce re-infestation of insects and diseases the following season.
4. Use small stakes or markers where you’ve planted bulbs or late starting spring plants in the perennial garden, to avoid disturbing them when you begin spring soil preparation.
5. After the ground freezes, mulch small fruit plants such as strawberries. One inch of straw or leaves is ideal for strawberries. Small branches may be used to keep mulch in place.
6. Clean and fix all hand tools. Repaint handles or identification marks that have faded over the summer. Sharpen all blades and remove any rust.
7. Drain your hoses and put them away so they don’t freeze and burst.
8. Keep mowing your lawn as long as the grass is growing. Meadow voles and field mice will damage turf and nearby trees and shrubs if they have long grass for food and cover.
9. Rake and compost large leaves from oak and maple trees. Smaller leaves from ash, honey locust, and birch trees may be chopped with a mulching mower when dry and left on your lawn.
10. Winter heating dries the air out in your home considerably. Help your houseplants survive by routine watering or by placing the pots on a pebble filled tray of water to ensure adequate humidity and moisture.
1. Use dried herbs to make fragrant fall wreaths and dried flower arrangements.
2. Pick bagworms from evergreen shrubs to eliminate the spring hatch from over-wintered eggs.
3. Cut down stems and foliage of herbaceous perennials after two or three hard frosts or when leaves begin to brown.
4. Squash and pumpkins should be harvested when they have bright color and a thick, hard skin. These vegetables will be abundant in farmer’s markets and will make a colorful and healthy addition to fall dinners.
5. Sketch out where you planted various vegetables in your garden back in the spring. This will come in handy next spring so when you plant, you can rotate your crops and help prevent disease.
6. If rain is lacking, continue to thoroughly water trees, shrubs, planting beds, and lawn areas. It is especially important to keep newly planted evergreens watered.
7. Outwit hungry squirrels and chipmunks by planting bulbs in established groundcovers.
8. Use a mulching blade to chop leaves finely and let them decompose on the lawn.
9. Keep collecting ripe seeds! Dry them out and place them in labeled brown paper envelops within an air tight container, and store in a cool place.
10. Limit herbaceous plant material located a few feet away from the house to eliminate hiding places for insects and mice, which could wind up indoors as temperatures plummet.
1. Lightly cultivate soil after a heavy rain to avoid compaction. A layer of mulch reduces the soil crusting and compaction caused by raindrops.
2. Check container plants daily during hot weather, they will need water often.
3. Check for small holes that signal flea beetle damage on tomatoes, eggplants and peppers.
4. There is still time to sow seeds of beans, beets, carrots, cucumbers, and summer squash.
5. Overgrown, multi-stemmed shrubs, like spirea, lilac, and forsythia, can be renovated by removing 1/3 of stems down to ground level each year for 3 years, allowing some new young growth to replace these older stems.
6. When deadheading rhododendrons, avoid breaking off leaf buds which are just below flowers.
7. Keep mower blades sharp and set your mower height at 2-3 inches.
8. Cut back early-flowering perennials to tidy up and encourage more blooms.
9. Mosquitoes breed in standing water. To discourage them, change the water in pet dishes and bird baths every few days.
10. For the sweetest pea harvest, pick regularly before pods become over-mature and peas become starchy.