Upper South

January, 2007
Regional Report

Use That Christmas Tree

Give your Christmas tree a second life as a source of winter protection for song birds. Set the tree in a bucket of sand, or nail a base of crossed boards to the bottom of the trunk and place it near the bird feeder. As the birds take turns at the feeder, they can seek shelter among the evergreen branches. Another garden use for the Christmas tree is as protection from the effects of freezing and thawing, especially a problem with perennials. Cut the branches off the tree and lay them loosely over plants.

Buy Yourself an Orchid

Sure, the poinsettia may still be alive, but wouldn't a blooming orchid be a great addition to the house? Orchids have become much more widely available, with the easiest to grow being phalaenopsis, or moth orchids. There are lots of colors to choose from, so be adventurous. Choose a spot that gets bright light. Allow plants to dry out before watering, then let the plant sit in water for 30 minutes before draining. Use an orchid fertilizer following the manufacturer's directions.

Watch a Garden Movie

You can spend winter evenings poring over garden catalogs or seriously studying books that will increase your gardening expertise, but long winter evenings need some entertainment as well. So get out the popcorn and hot cocoa and snuggle in for some garden videos, like the BBC mystery series Rosemary & Thyme, based on two sleuthing gardeners; or Greenfingers, a comical look at the redemptive power of gardening, complete with Helen Mirren, Clive Owen, and the Chelsea Flower Show.

Take Advantage of Warm Winter Days

Warm cap, gloves, and muffler may be required, but there are certainly days in winter that are mild enough for you to be relatively comfortable outdoors, particularly if you're active. You'll make a dent in garden chores, get some extra vitamin D, and work off at least some of those Christmas cookies. Use any warm winter days for pruning, tending to perennials that have been frost-heaved, checking for rodent damage to trees, or weeding. The nutrient-rich chickweed is growing luxuriantly now, so be sure to bring some in for adding to salads.

Make a Suet Log

Costing up to $20 in stores or catalogs, a suet log is a quick and easy project that you can make for much less. Eastern red cedar will be the longest lasting, but any 2-inch-diameter branch 12 to 15 inches long will work. Drill four 1-1/4-inch holes through the log several inches apart along the length of the log. Add an eye hook at one end. Using suet or a mixture of suet, peanut butter, and chopped peanuts, form four cylinders 4 inches long and 1-1/4 inches in diameter. Insert suet cylinders into the holes and hang.

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