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Weekly Gardening Tips for Your Area


Dec. 2013 To-Do List: Northern & Central MidWest

Home Depot

Variagated poinsettia.Enjoy a beautiful poinsettia during the holiday season.¬†When it’s not decorating a holiday table, give this tropical native a sunny window with an indoor temperature between 60 and 70 degrees F. Avoid letting your plant sit in hot or cold drafts, and don’t fertilize while it’s in bloom. One of the biggest mistakes we make with poinsettias (in fact, with most houseplants) is overwatering. After you water yours, remove any decorative wrapping and let the excess water drain away. For more holiday color, look for flowering cyclamen, Christmas cacti, amaryllis, and paperwhites.

  • Mulch rose bushes and perennial flowers with shredded leaves, weed-free hay, straw, or cedar chips. Several inches of humus-rich garden soil can also help keep the soil from heaving, or alternately freezing and thawing, which may expose roots.
  • Water your living Christmas tree with ice cubes, and try not to leave it indoors for more than a week. Before you move it outside, let it spend a couple of days in an unheated location, like a garage or shed, to ease its transition.
  • When your cut Christmas tree is finished, prop it up outdoors and decorate it with strands of popcorn, cones rolled in a little peanut butter and birdseed, suet cakes, and other treats for wild birds. Offer fresh, clean water for our feathered friends, too. Check your local Home Depot store; some carry devices you can use in bird baths to keep the water from freezing.
  • Recycle trimmings from your evergreens by using them as mulch around the base of azaleas and rhododendrons. They’ll help prevent damage from the winter sun as well as protect the soil from extreme temperature changes.
  • Before a hard freeze, put markers along the edge of lawns and gardens to serve as guides when you’re plowing and blowing snow. Use burlap, if needed, to help protect evergreens and other plants from forceful blasts from your snow equipment.
  • For an alternative to using salt and de-icers on your steps, walkways, and driveways, try sand mixed with a little organic fertilizer.
  • If the leaves of your houseplants look dusty, rinse them off at the kitchen sink or in the shower. Wipe large leaves individually with a soft cloth dipped in a few drops of mild dish detergent mixed with a quart of tepid water. Rinse the leaves with clear water after wiping them. You may need to wash both sides.
  • Sow seeds of basil, cilantro, and dill indoors every two weeks for a steady supply of fresh herbs. An indoor herb garden rack will keep them at hand for making dips and sauces. Cut rosemary back regularly to encourage side branches to form.
  • If the edges of houseplant leaves look brown and dry, put the pots on a tray of pebbles filled with a little water to increase the humidity. Don’t let the pots touch the water. You can also mist your plants or use a humidifer.
  • Check stored bulbs for signs of rot or mold, and discard them before they spoil the rest. Lightly mist the storage medium to keep it from drying out completely.


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