Control Houseplant Pests
If you find small black flies around your indoor potted plants, they might be fungus gnats. These little pests dwell in moist potting soil and feed on decaying organic matter. You can discourage them by placing a temporary foil or plastic wrap barrier over the top of the potting soil. There are also commercial products containing a special strain of the biological control Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). Be sure the product is labeled for fungus gnats and carefully follow label directions.
Suppress Winter Weeds
Keep winter weeds pulled before they have a chance to mature and set seeds. This will reduce the amount of spring weeding you'll have to do. You can slow soil erosion and discourage weed seeds from germinating by placing a 2- to 3-inch layer of organic mulch, such as compost or bark, over bare soil.
Plant garden peas now if soil is well drained and workable. Suggested varieties for our area include 'Oregon Sugar Pod II', 'Knight', 'Oregon Trail', 'Snappy', 'Green Arrow', and 'Corvallis'. If mosaic virus disease commonly attacks your peas, look for resistant varieties and plant them in a different garden spot each year.
Start Tomato Seeds Indoors
Sow tomato seeds indoors now so they'll be ready to transplant outdoors as soon as the soil warms. Start with clean seed-starting trays and moistened seed-starting mix and make rows of furrows about an inch apart and a quarter inch deep across the top of the mix. Sprinkle seeds into the furrows, spacing them about a half inch apart. Barely cover seeds with additional potting soil, then cover the trays with plastic wrap. Place your trays in a warm location until seeds germinate. Remove the plastic wrap and place the trays under a source of artificial light.
Clean Bird Feeders
Keep our feathered friends healthy and happy all winter long by providing fresh water and keeping the feeders stocked with fresh seed. Birds in our area are especially fond of black sunflower seed. Clean the feeders every few weeks to prevent the spread of disease. I wash mine in hot, soapy water, then rinse in a 10 percent bleach solution before rinsing again in fresh water. Refill after allowing the feeders to air dry.