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Weekly Gardening Tips for Your Area


December 2012 To Do List: Zones 1 & 2

Susan Wells
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November 2012 To Do Lists: Zone 8

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Clean the air indoors, and you’ll clear your mind. NASA studies have chosen the following plants as top air purifiers: bamboo palms, Boston ferns, dwarf date palms, gerbera daisies, peace lilies and rubber trees. Indoor plants help to remove such pollutants as formaldehyde, as well as odors from paints/stains/varnishes, adhesives, particle board, ammonia and alcohol.


Drying and browning edges of houseplant leaves may indicate too little humidity. If plants are suffering from dry heated indoor air, group pots together to increase humidity and set pots on a tray of pebbles filled to half their depth with water, or set up a humidifier nearby.

Dusty leaves on houseplants inhibit photosynthesis and transpiration, and provide insects a place to hide. Give smaller plants a rinse with the sprayer at the kitchen sink. Larger plants can be set in the shower. The leaves of large-foliaged plants can be wiped off individually with a soft cloth dipped in a solution of a few drops of mild dish detergent in a quart of tepid water, then rinsed with clear water. Be sure to wash off both sides of the leaves.


Poinsettias have been a holiday favorite since the 1920’s when they came over from Mexico. They do best in a sunny window with an indoor temperature of 60 to 70 degrees. Avoid temperature fluctuations and areas where there are warm or cold drafts. Don’t fertilize the poinsettia when the plant is in bloom. One of the biggest mistakes we can make with poinsettias is overwatering. They are prone to root rot if the pot sits in a saucer full of water. (Poinsettias exude a milky and sticky liquid that may irritate the skin, but is not poisonous. It is a good idea to keep them away from young children and pets.)


An inexpensive, easy to grow and nutritious way to add fresh greens to your diet is to start sprouting seeds for your sandwiches, pizzas and salads. A variety of seeds hold a variety of healthy benefits. Try sprouting alfalfa, broccoli seeds, cabbage, celery, clover, garlic, kale, mung bean, radish and sunflower seeds.

If indoor herbs are suffering, set up grow lights to keep the herbs as vigorous as possible for winter harvesting. Clipping them often will allow for more growth.

For the home gardener, wood ash is a great source of lime, potassium and trace elements, containing most of the 13 essential nutrients the soil needs for plant growth. As wood burns, nitrogen and sulfur are lost as gases, but calcium, potassium, magnesium and trace element compounds remain. The carbonates and oxides remaining are valuable liming agents, raising pH, thereby helping to neutralize acid soils. You can add it to the compost bin or directly to the garden.

Know the pH of your soil before adding too much wood ash. Where soils are acidic and low in potassium, wood ash is beneficial. Use wood ash on flower beds, lawns and shrubs. The exception is acid-loving plants such as blueberries, rhododendrons and azaleas.

Study your Garden Journal from last year and layout a new plan if needed. Winter is such a good time to study the bones of a landscape.


Order seeds and gardening books and spend time with them designing new beds for spring using native plants that can withstand and thrive in cold climates.

Inspect bulbs you have stored. Remove any that show signs of rotting and mold growth. If the storage medium is dry, lightly moisten it with a spray bottle filled with warm water.

Continue to ‘force’ spring bulbs indoors.

Trees and Shrubs

Remove dead and diseased limbs from trees and shrubs. Bring pruned evergreen boughs indoors for holiday decorations.


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