Northern & Central Midwest

January, 2009
Regional Report

Reduce Sidewalk Salt

If you use de-icers on icy sidewalks, mix them with 50 percent sand. This will give you traction but will reduce the amount of salt that washes into the soil. An even better approach is to use only sand or wood ash, but it can be messy when tracked into the house.

Recycle Your Christmas Tree

Cut the branches off your Christmas tree and use them as mulch for perennials and bulbs. By next spring, most of the needles will have fallen off, giving you some mulch. Then you can use the remaining twigs as supports for perennials, instead of expensive perennial rings.

Put Old Paint to Good Garden Use

Gather up partial cans of paint for garden use. Use bright colors to paint the handles of garden tools, and use more subtle colors to refurbish bird feeders, birdhouses, and planter boxes. The paint helps seal the wood and protect it from the weather.

Spread Wood Ashes to Kill Slugs

Save your wood ashes for slug control. In spring before hostas begin to emerge, clear all plant debris and mulch away from the crowns and sprinkle with wood ashes or sharp (builder's) sand. Slug eggs are laid in the crowns, so when the larvae hatch, the gritty ashes damage their slime layers, killing them.

Take Advantage of a January Thaw

If you get one or two days when the temperature climbs, take the opportunity to get out and do some pruning. This is an ideal time to prune dormant deciduous trees to allow better air circulation and prevent disease next year. Wait until March, however, to prune fruit trees.

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