Pacific Northwest

December, 2005
Regional Report

Rotate Houseplants

Houseplants reach for the light when levels are low, and during winter months they can become lopsided. To keep your plants from leaning, rotate them a quarter turn every two weeks, or supplement the natural light with grow lights until spring when the sun is higher and stronger.

Make Your Own Potting Soil

You can purchase pasteurized potting soil to start seedlings indoors or make your own custom blend. My recipe includes 1/2 bushel sphagnum peat moss, 1/4 bushel vermiculite, 1/4 bushel perlite, 8 teaspoons ground dolomitic lime, 2 teaspoons superphosphate, 3 teaspoons 10-10-10 fertilizer, 1 teaspoon iron sulfate, and 1 teaspoon potassium nitrate. Thoroughly mix, then store in a dry place.

Apply Horticultural Oils

Horticultural oils suffocate insects and larvae that are overwintering on the bark of dormant trees and shrubs. Apply them on a calm day when temperatures are above 40 degrees F. Be sure to cover all surfaces of the plant with spray, from ground level to the tips of the branches.

Build a Portable Cold Frame

If you're growing cool-season veggies, such as arugula and spinach, you can help protect your crops from cold snaps by building a simple frame of PVC pipe and draping clear plastic over it. The plastic will trap heat, so prop the frame up with stones on clear days to allow cool air to enter to prevent plants from burning and to let excess moisture evaporate.

Protect Plants in Containers

An easy way to protect the roots of outdoor container plants through winter is to sink the pots into the ground to the top of the lip. Another method is to place the pots inside larger pots and then fill the void between the pots with dry potting soil. The air space between the pots will help maintain suitable temperatures for the roots.

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