New England

December, 2004
Regional Report

Avoid Using Salt to De-Ice Walkways

Although salt does melt ice, it also can damage plant roots, so substitute sand or kitty litter to provide traction, or use one of the commercially available products made to melt ice without damaging plants.

Put Away Hoses

It's time to bring hoses inside or drain them if you leave them outside. If the ground is frozen, the water in your outdoor hoses will be too. If so, bring them into a garage where they can warm up enough for the ice to melt. Then coil them and store for the winter. Avoid hanging them on a hook, which can cause kinking.

Spread Mulch

When the ground freezes, it\'s time to mulch tender perennials, newly planted trees and shrubs, roses, and other plants that need protection. Use straw, hay, compost, evergreen boughs, leaves (except for maple which easily compact), bark chips, or whatever else may be available locally that doesn\'t mat down too much. Certain drought-tolerant perennials, such as agastache and penstemons, are better off with a gravel mulch, which won\'t hold water. If burrowing rodents are a potential problem, leave a 2-inch gap between the mulch and tree trunks so the critters can\'t feed under cover all winter.

Bring Pots Inside

Ceramic and clay pots left outside can crack when the soil inside freezes and expands. Empty them and bring them into a shed, garage, or basement for winter. Also bring in ceramic birdbaths and statuary.

Heat Your Birdbath

If your birdbath is within an extension cord's reach of your outdoor outlet, you can provide drinking water for winter birds by using a birdbath heater. It keeps the water slightly above freezing. Just be sure you don't run over the cord with your snowblower.

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