New England

December, 2008
Regional Report

Grow Under Fluorescents

An indoor light garden will allow you to grow all sorts of indoor plants. You can rig one up yourself by suspending a fluorescent light over a waterproof tray. Or, you can purchase light garden units that are attractive enough for the living room. If you ask nicely, maybe Santa will bring you one!

Tending Houseplants

Rotate your windowsill houseplants a quarter turn each week or so, to give all branches equal exposure to precious winter light. Most houseplants prefer soil that is slightly moist -- never soggy, never dry. Keep plants away from hot and cold drafts, and check frequently for insects -- especially spider mites that thrive in the dry indoor environment.

Prepare Tools for Winter

Now is a good time to clean and sharpen the blades on your hoes and spades, and to give all wood handles a rubdown with linseed oil. Sharpen pruners and loppers, too, and you'll be set for late-winter pruning.

Propagate African Violets

African violets make great houseplants and will flower in winter if given supplemental light. To propagate new plants, take a leaf cutting, dip the cut end in a rooting hormone powder, such as Rootone, and stick the cutting in a pot filled with vermiculite or sand. Cover the pot with a perforated clear plastic bag and keep the soil moist. In a few weeks you'll have new plants.

Avoid Using Salt to Melt 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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