Middle South

December, 2008
Regional Report

Check Houseplants for Pests

Examine houseplants for signs of pests, focusing your attention on the new growth, the leaf axils (where the leaf meets the stem), and the undersides of the leaves. Look for fine webbing (mites), white cottony-looking spots (mealybugs), a flurry of tiny white insects (whiteflies), and a sticky substance on leaves (the honeydew secreted by scale and other insects). All of these can be controlled by washing foliage with warm, soapy water or with sprays of insecticidal soap.

Watch for Freeze-Thaw Heaving

The soil in our region freezes and thaws throughout the winter, and the alternating expansion and contraction can push small plants right out of the soil. Keep an eye out for plants that appear unearthed and tuck them back in. Mulching after a cold spell can help keep soil consistently cool.

Clean and Sharpen Tools

Clean all tools before storing them for the winter. Sharpen the blades on your hoes, spades, and pruners, and give wooden handles a rubdown with linseed oil. Run your mower until the gas is gone and then drain the oil.

Spread Organic Matter

While vegetable beds are at rest, blanket them with a 3- to 4-inch layer of organic matter, such as shredded leaves or aged manure, and let it sit there over the winter. Dig it into the soil in spring, or just push the material aside and set plants into the soil underneath.

Avoid Using Salt to De-Ice

Although salt does melt ice, it can also damage plant roots. Where possible, use sand or kitty litter to provide traction, or use one of the commercially available products made to melt ice without damaging plants.

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