Live or fresh-cut Christmas trees fill our homes and offices with a clean, spicy fragrance during the holidays. When the season draws to a close, recycle your cut tree by removing the branches and using them as mulch around shrubs, trees and perennials. Cut trees can also be placed in ponds or lakes to create habitat for fish and aquatic insects, or moved outside while still in their stands and hung with suet cakes or pine cones rolled in peanut butter and bird seed to attract hungry birds. Some gardeners even keep their trees in the garden to re-use as trellises for peas, beans, and other vining plants.
- If you use a live tree at Christmastime, plant it in a hole as least twice as wide, but no deeper, than the rootball. Water thoroughly to settle the soil, and mulch to help conserve moisture and control competing weeds.
- Continue watering newly transplanted trees, including your living Christmas tree when it’s moved outdoors, if rain is scarce, or it’s unusually windy and hot.
- Keep poinsettias healthy and beautiful by giving them a sunny window and indoor temperatures that range from 60 to 70 degrees F. Avoid drafts, which cause leaves to drop, and be careful not to overwater. If your plant is in a pot with decorative wrapping, remove it when you water so the roots won’t rot.
- Plant celery this month.
- Wait until January to prune roses.
- Keep using dried flowers from your garden to make holiday decor and gifts. Don’t have any flowers left? Substitute commercially dried or silk flowers.
- Run over any remaining leaves with a mulching blade on your lawn mower, and add the shredded leaves to your compost pile or garden beds. One inch of organic matter on top of the soil is adequate for most plants.
- For winter color and texture, add kales, cabbages, mustard greens and curly parsley to your beds.
- Harvest leafy greens by the “cut-and-come-again” method; cut a few leaves, and let the plant remain in the ground to grow more.
- Keep fading blooms and foliage picked off poinsettias, Christmas cacti and other holiday plants, so potentially harmful plant parts won’t fall to the floor where they might come into contact with small children and pets.
- Prune grapes and low-chill raspberries now.
- If you grow poinsettias outside, be ready to protect them from the cold with floating row cover. These tropical plants dislike wet, chilly conditions.
- When pruning trees, don’t remove more than 1/4 to 1/3 of the branches in one season. Pruning too heavily may reduce the tree’s ability to feed itself through photosynthesis. If the tree becomes stressed, it will be more prone to attack by pests and diseases.
- Fertilize cool season grasses this month. Feed Bermuda lawns if they’ve been overseeded with annual rye grass.
- Use your fresh herbs to make vinegars by adding 8 cups of the herbs to a gallon of your favorite vinegar. Cap the container tightly and store it in a dark place for a few weeks. Strain into pretty, sterile bottles for gift giving, leaving room to tuck in a few sprigs of fresh herbs. Top the bottles off with more vinegar.
Image: M.E. Bowman