New England

December, 2007
Regional Report

Handle Snow-Laden Branches With Care

For the most part, it's best to let Mother Nature melt the snow off shrubs. Flexible evergreens branches are able to hold quite a bit of snow, but if snow is very heavy and the limbs are severely bent, you may want to remove some of it. Gently brush the branches with a broom or by hand. Avoid using a shovel because it can injure the leaves.

Get Lost in Garden Reading

If you have some time off during the holidays to relax, settle in with some gardening magazines and books to gather ideas and research questions that nagged at you last planting season when you didn't have a moment to spare. I tear out pages of magazines that inspire me in some way so I can easily refer to them later.

Keeping Cyclamen Healthy

Cyclamen like it cool -- right next to the heater isn't an ideal location. The small tuber is susceptible to rotting so if you have the time, water by submerging the pot in bowl of water until the soil takes up enough moisture. Otherwise water slowly so it seeps in and doesn't sit on the tuber. As flowers and foliage fade, you can give the plant a rest by withholding water and keeping it in a cool, dark location until new growth begins.

Check Soil Before Watering

Consider the plight of our poor plants: from bright sun, humidity, and natural rainfall in summer we move them inside to lower light and dried out air from heaters. If you have a fireplace, the air is even drier. Throw any former watering routine out the window, and use the soil as your guide. You must feel it. When it's dry an inch or so deep, apply enough water so it comes out the bottom drainage hole. The larger the pot, the longer you can wait in between waterings. I have to water small pots every couple of days when the fireplace gets a lot of use. Humidifiers are very beneficial for plants and for us.

Control Spider Mites on Houseplants

Many houseplants, including palms and cyclamen, are attacked by spider mites this time of year. They are microscopic creatures that suck plant juices, causing the leaves to look speckled or silvery. To scout for these pests, mist the plants lightly; if mites are present, the water droplets will cling to the mites' fine webbing. Control them by misting plants daily to keep the humidity high (spider mites love dryness) and by spraying plants with insecticidal soap.

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