Dress up your home for the holidays by bringing in boughs trimmed from your evergreens. They’ll fill the air with a spicy fragrance. Look for red berries on holly bushes and nandinas to use as accents for the greenery. Colorful poinsettias, Christmas cacti, and other flowering plants are readily available this season. Remember that pets and small children may nibble or try to play with them, and some plant parts are harmful to ingest or handle. Keep the plants safely out of reach, and remove any fading foliage or blossoms before they drop to the floor.
- Check flower bulbs stored in the basement, and remove those with signs of rotting or mold growth. If the storage medium has gotten dry, lightly refresh it with a few pumps of water from a spray bottle.
- Keep planting spring flowering bulbs outdoors as long as the soil can be worked.
- Sow seeds of cilantro, basil, and dill indoors every two weeks for an ongoing supply of fresh herbs. An herb garden kept by a bright window makes it easy to snip sprigs for recipes and garnishes.
- When you rake pine needles, use them for mulch underneath acid-loving shrubs, trees, and perennials, such as blueberries, azaleas, rhododendrons, hollies, white birch, magnolias, camellias, and raspberries. Used underneath pink hydrangeas, the acidic needles can help change the flowers to blue.
- Tree Gators are often wrapped around the trunk of newly planted or transplanted trees to water them slowly. Remove these wraps this winter, so rain and snow can reach the soil. Check the trees for signs of insect boring, rot, or damage of any kind.
- Mulch around rose bushes and perennial flowers with a few inches of coarse homemade compost, shredded leaves, weed-free straw, cedar chips, or humus-rich garden soil.
- Water your living Christmas tree with ice cubes. For best results, leave it indoors for no more than 5 to 7 days.
- Don’t try to remove wet, heavy snow from evergreens. Their limbs stay supple during the winter and will usually bend under the weight rather than cracking. You could do more harm than good.
- Recycle your Christmas tree and other greenery by cutting it apart and using the trimmings as mulch around azaleas and rhododendrons. Christmas trees can also be dropped into ponds or lakes to create habitat for fish and other aquatic creatures.
- Before the ground freezes hard, place markers along the edges of lawns and gardens to serve as guides and prevent damage when you operate snow plows and blowers. Erect burlap screens, if needed, to keep blasts of snow from the blower from hitting evergreens and other plants.
- If the leaves of your houseplants look dry and brown along the edges, they may need more humidity. Group pots together to increase humidity, or put them on a tray filled with pebbles and a little water. Avoid letting the bottoms of the pots touch the water, to prevent rot root. Run a humidifier if desired.