Middle South

December, 2009
Regional Report

Clean and Sharpen Pruning Tools

Look ahead to pruning season by using down time to revitalize cutting shears of all types. First, use a wire brush and warm water to scrub away dirt and rust. Then use a file to sharpen blades, placing the file so it is flush with the existing cutting surface and using firm stokes to push the sharpening tool away from you. Finally, apply a liberal coat of oil such as WD-40, and then remove the excess lubricant before storing the tools for later use.

Sprout Vegetable Tops

Feeling as gray as the outdoors? Try sprouting some vegetable tops to cheer you through winter's dreary days. Simply save the tops of carrots, beets, turnips, or parsnips, and set them in a shallow dish of water near a window. In a few days, you'll have perky tufts of green to lift your spirits.

Tend Houseplants

In the holiday rush, don't forget to care for your houseplants. Most prefer soil that is moist but not soggy, so add water when the top inch of soil is dry. Also rotate plants occasionally to give foliage equal exposure to light, keep them away from drafts, and check them frequently for insects, especially spider mites that thrive in dry heat.

Remove English Ivy

Take advantage of winter rains by removing invasive English ivy while the soil is damp and soft. For best results, start from the end of a vine and pull up as much as you can, then go back to remove side shoots or roots that may have been left. Use small hand tools if you find them helpful, and always wear gloves to protect your hands.

Protect Roses

In the Middle South, roses don't require the protection they need further north, but it's never a bad idea to renew the mulch over plant roots in case of an intense cold snap. If, however, you have an especially tender shrub, you might also make a cylinder around the plant with burlap, and fill the space with shredded leaves.

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