Mid-Atlantic

December, 2008
Regional Report

Dig Your Holiday Tree Hole Now

So you plan to buy a balled-and-burlapped or containerized holiday evergreen to plant outdoors. Dig the hole before the soil freezes. Keep soil in a wheelbarrow in the garage or shelter where it will be workable to use as backfill. Tips to increase the odds the tree will survive transition from your living room to the backyard: Buy a short tree -- less than 5 feet. Limit your tree's indoor stay to 3 to 5 days in a cool spot (65 degrees or less). Keep the rootball moist and the tree misted.

Fertilize Spring and Summer Bulbs

While you're removing dead debris from the garden, notice the brown Lilium stalks -- Orientals such as 'Stargazer', Asiatic, Martagnon, species, trumpet. After you cut off the stalk, apply slow-release mineral or organic fertilizer atop the soil as directed on the package. Be sure to sprinkle fertilizer on the soil over the spring bulbs you're planting.

Leave Ornamental Grasses and Select Seed Pods

Birds will glean seeds from black-eyed Susan and echinacea, and native ornamental grass seed heads such as big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii). Grasses also will provide winter shelter.

Empty, Clean and Store Nonweatherproof Containers

Soil-filled terra cotta and glazed pots, some stoneware, and concrete containers may crack or break in winter's freeze and thaw. Remove soil and plants. Rinse the pots thoroughly. Store upside down if left in a sheltered place outdoors. It's fine to store them upright in a garage or shed. Tropicals such as papyrus, banana, hibiscus and tender annuals such as coleus and geraniums can be brought indoors to a sunny spot.

Pop In Pansies, Dwarf Evergreens

Pot up hay racks and window boxes, wood and weatherproof containers. Refresh with some new soil mix and a bit of fertilizer. Pop in colorful winter pansies that will rebloom in spring. Plant dwarf evergreens -- abies, chamaecyparis, pine, juniper, spruce -- for attractive winter form and color. Eventually -- in 5, 10 years or so -- the dwarf evergreens will outgrow the containers. Which gives time to decide where to give them a second life to reach full size on your property.

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