New England

December, 2007
Regional Report

Make a Gardener's Gift Basket

What gardener on your list wouldn't appreciate a decorative basket or pot filled with handy gardening items? Plus they're fun to put together. Some items to consider are pruners, an ergonomic trowel, fragrant soap, hand lotion, seeds, plant tags, paper white narcissus bulbs, and decorative stones.

Mulch Frozen Ground

When the ground is frozen, it's time to spread winter mulch. Cover the ground around tender perennials with rotted leaves, shredded bark, hay, straw, evergreen boughs, or other loose mulch. Take care not to smother the crowns with any material that will mat down. Mulch around trees and shrubs but don't let it touch the plants' bark or it can encourage rot and harbor mice and voles that are late on the prowl.

Green Your Front Entrance

The faux clay pots made of insulated plastic are handy for adding a touch of greenery next to your front door. Use a 12- or 14-inch size or larger, and fill with old soil, peat moss, or whatever material you have on hand that will anchor branches. Prune some branches off evergreen trees and shrubs to use in the container, adding other greens and berries from local nurseries or florists, and some tiny white lights. Branches of holly berries add color for awhile until they freeze and turn black. Some faux branches of berries look remarkably real, and who's going to know when they are covered with a dusting of snow.

Remove Decorative Foil

Decorative foil can hold water around the roots of holiday plants and drown them. Either remove it when you water or poke drainage holes in the foil and use a saucer.

Propagate African Violets

To make a new plant, cut a leaf from the mother plant with about an inch of the leaf stem or petiole. Fill a small pot with bagged potting mix or a mixture of sand and vermiculite. Poke a hole in the mix with a pencil and insert the stem so that the leaf itself is at the soil surface. Cover the pot with a perforated clear plastic bag and keep the soil moist. In about a month, new leaves should be visible at the juncture of the leaf and stem and you can pot this new plant in soil suitable for African violets.

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