New England

December, 2008
Regional Report

Check Stored Produce

Inspect stored fruits and vegetables weekly, using or discarding any that show signs of decay. The adage that "one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch" is true. Be sure that stored produce doesn't freeze.

Force Paper Whites

Choose a container with no drainage holes, fill it with gravel, and set the bulbs so the top third pokes above the gravel. Add water until it's just below the base of the bulbs because the bulbs will send down roots into the water. Or plant the bulbs in a shallow container filled with potting soil. Place the container in a cool (50 to 60 degrees F.), bright room. Plants should bloom four to six weeks from the planting date.

Prevent Mice from Chewing Bark

Hungry mice will chew the bark off young fruit trees at the soil line, weakening and possibly killing the trees. Trees that have been mulched up to the trunk are especially susceptible, since the mice can hide under the mulch. To protect trees, pull mulch back several inches from the trunk. Consider doing what commercial orchardists do, and place wire-screen mouse guards around the trunks of young trees.

Check Labels Before Storing Pesticides

Some pesticide products can be kept over the winter in an outdoor storage shed, but others need to be protected from freezing to remain effective. Check labels for storage instructions. No matter where you store them, be sure pesticides are safely stowed out of reach of children and pets. Even organic pesticides can be highly toxic if ingested or handled improperly.

Invite Winter Birds

To encourage birds to visit your garden this winter, set out feeders near evergreen trees or shrubs so birds have cover while they feed. Also, keep birdbaths ice-free and filled with fresh water. However, if you have bird-chasing cats, or if raiding squirrels are a problem, hang the feeders higher off the ground and away from trees and structures.

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