Add Preservative to Christmas Tree Water
With a live, cut Christmas tree, it's important to keep the stand filled with water so the tree doesn't dry out. A fresh tree can utilize up to a quart of water a day, so check daily. You can add a commercial preservative to the water, or make your own by mixing one 12-ounce can of lemon-lime soft drink and 2 tablespoons of household bleach in 1 gallon of water. The tree's freshness is also prolonged by keeping away from fireplaces or radiators as well as south- or west-facing windows.
Keep Poinsettias Healthy
Poinsettias can keep their brightly colored bracts for months by locating them away from drafts and in bright but not direct sunlight. Night temperatures in the 60s are best. Keep the soil evenly moist. Over- or under watering will cause the leaves to yellow and drop off. To keep the poinsettia growing, fertilize monthly with a water-soluble houseplant fertilizer. To rebloom, poinsettias need 14 hours of total darkness each day, starting in September.
Popular foliage houseplants with glossy foliage, like dracaena, philodendrons, and rubber plants, benefit from a monthly bath. Using a soft sponge dipped lukewarm water with a mild liquid soap added, gently wash both sides of the leaves. Follow by wiping with plain lukewarm water. This removes dust and any other grime, and allows the pores of the leaves to carry out their natural processes better. Fuzzy-leaved plants should be sprayed gently with lukewarm water. While washing, check the leaves for pests, and treat any immediately.
Protect Plants From Salt and Ice
The salt for melting ice on steps, walks, and drives can be detrimental to nearby plants. Much safer to use are materials like kitty litter, sand, fertilizer, or specifically formulated, environmentally safe salts. Plants directly under the eaves can be damaged from snow and ice falling off the roof. A solution is to build tepees out of wood and burlap and place them over the plants.
Plan Next Year's Garden
Before you get overwhelmed by the many choices in plant and seed catalogs, make some notes about what worked and what didn't last year in the garden, as well as what new plants would make your garden more pleasing. Which vegetables did you most enjoy growing? Do you really have enough space for another 25 raspberries? Would you enjoy the perennial border more if it were designed with a longer blooming season? Would a new planting of trees and shrubs be an attractive addition? Consider these and other questions to make 2006 your best garden ever.