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Weekly Gardening Tips for Your Area


Dec. 2013 To-Do List: Western Mountains & High Plains

Home Depot

PoinsettiaMany beautiful holiday plants are available throughout the season, including poinsettias, cyclamens, paperwhite narcisscus, and Christmas cacti. When you bring your plants home, give them a spot away from heat vents and drafty doors and windows. Most will do best in a bright window, but avoid letting them touch the glass. Use a small stake or sturdy twig to support flowering stems, if needed, and don’t fertilize while they’re in bloom. If your plant is in a foil-wrapped pot, remove the foil when you water so any excess can drain away.

  • Keep bird baths clean and filled with fresh water so our feathered friends can drink and bath. Check your local Home Depot store; many carry devices you can put into the bath to keep the water from freezing.
  • Rain and snow can spoil the feed in your bird feeders. Put a baffle over the top of open feeders to help protect the seed from weather and hungry squirrels. 
  • After the ground freezes, mulch perennials and spring-blooming bulbs with a few inches of weed-free straw, trimmings from evergreens, or other loose organic matter.
  • Snow, freezing rain, and ice can break or bend junipers and other plants with upright growth habits. Wrap them with garden netting to help protect them.
  • Attach reflective markers to poles and put them along the edges of driveways and walkways before snow falls. They’ll help guide you when you operate a snow blower or plow.
  • Some ice-melting chemicals and salts can damage plants when they leach into the soil. Try using kitty litter, sand, or ordinary garden fertilizer to keep walks and driveways clear instead.
  • Watering trees, shrubs, and perennials during dry spells can help them survive the winter. But wait until the temperatures are above 50 degrees F and the ground is not frozen. When you’re finished, drain and store hoses before the temperatures drop again.
  • If pesky black insects are flying around your houseplants, cut back on watering. Fungus gnats love damp soil. Most indoor plants don’t need as much water during the winter, anyway.
  • If you see chewed bark at the base of trees, clear away mulch or vegetation close to the trunk to expose the hiding places of mice, voles, and other critters. If needed, put a wire cage around the tree. Make it about 2′ high and bury it a few inches under the soil to discourage them from returning.
  • Let carrots stay in the garden to sweeten over the winter. Cover them with layers of straw so you can get to them when you’re ready.
  • Protect azaleas and rhododendrons from winter damage with wire cages. Stuff loose organic material, such as coarse compost, into the cages and over and around the plants. Drape burlap over each filled cage.
  • Don’t mulch roses until they are completely dormant (usually early December). Cold temperatures and shortened days help activate their natural winter hardiness. When they’re dormant, mulch with 8-12″ of loose, compost-rich soil. If rain threatens to wash it away, make a cardboard collar around the base of each rose to hold it in place.
  • Check the mulch around perennials and other dormant plants to be sure it isn’t blown away by strong winds. Keep extra mulch piled nearby, in a spot that won’t freeze, in case you need it.

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