Trees and shrubs, both ornamental and fruiting, can be pruned any time after leaf fall and before the buds begin to swell in spring. The goals in pruning include keeping the plant open and free of crossing or competing branches, removing diseased or damaged wood, and keeping the plant at a reasonable size. On grafted plants, remove any suckers at the base. Use well-sharpened pruning tools and saws, and oil them after finishing.
Caring for Indoor Azaleas
Tender Indian azaleas are covered in blooms at this time of year, making lovely holiday decorations. These need to be kept moist, but they are usually so pot-bound that there's not enough soil to absorb adequate water. Remedy this by setting the pot inside another one that has no drainage hole. Water well, then pour off any water that is not absorbed after 30 minutes. These azaleas do best in a cool, humid room.
Giant amaryllis flowers are one of the stars of the winter indoor garden. Amaryllis does best when crowded, so choose a pot that leaves 1-1/2 inches of space between the bulb and pot. Use a well-drained potting soil, and leave at least a third of the bulb above the soil level. Water well and place in a warm, sunny room. To dress up the pot, sprinkle some wheatgrass seed on the soil when the flower buds swell.
Clean and Winterize Lawn Mowers
The lawn shouldn\'t go into winter with too much top growth, so if you haven\'t yet done the final lawn mowing, now is the time. Cut it to 2 or 3 inches tall. Once that\'s completed, clean up the mower for the winter. Remove grass clippings that have accumulated around the deck, seat, and so on, as well as the bottom of the mowing deck. Winterize the engine, and sharpen the blades now so the machine will be ready to go next spring.
Use an Antidessicant
Frozen soil, drought, and drying winds can cause broad-leaved evergreens, such as rhododendrons, azaleas, hollies, and mountain laurel, to lose more water through their leaves than their roots can absorb. The result can range from a few dead leaves to the death of the entire plant. To reduce this moisture loss, use an antidessicant spray, which has a waxy substance that coats the leaves. These sprays are available at garden centers. Apply when the temperature is above freezing.