Upper South

December, 2009
Regional Report

Revive Perennial Beds

Choose a day that is as warm and dry as possible at this time of year, and start clearing beds and boosting the soil for great results next year. Cut back the hardy perennials that are not particularly attractive during the winter. Collect all the trimmings and compost them. Once the beds are cleared, loosen the soil between the plants with a spading fork or small hand cultivator and mix in some finished compost or composted cow manure as you go. This relives surface compaction, improves drainage, and adds some organic matter to the soil. Finish off by spreading a layer of compost or hardwood mulch over the entire area.

Get Seed Trays and Pots Ready

Before you know it, the time will be here to start seeds for next year's garden. Get a head start now in order to have supplies ready. Wash previously used seed trays and pots with a disinfectant solution, then rinse thoroughly with clear water. Take an inventory and see what you'll need to buy or order. Purchase some of the special germinating soil. Think about investing in a heating cable, which promotes germination, as well as some fluorescent lights, which ensures better growth of the young seedlings.

Give Colorful Azaleas

Pots of azaleas in flower are among the gift plants of the season. To keep them looking good for as long as possible, provide bright but not direct sun and cool temperatures, plus keep the soil evenly moist. Florists' azaleas are not usually hardy, but can can keep them growing in pots, bringing them indoors during the winter next year. Feed with a fertilizer designed for rhododendrons and azaleas, applying at manufacturer's recommendations.

Choose a Live Tree

A live evergreen tree, still in its pots or balled and burlapped, can be brought indoors for 3 to 5 days, decorated, then planted outdoors In your yard. Often families make this a holiday tradition, with the trees providing treasured memories for years to come. Dig the hole before the ground freezes, then fill it with leaves and cover the removed soil with a tarp. After the holidays, plant the tree, water deeply, spray the needles with an antidessicant, and mulch well.

Decorate a Christmas Tree for the Birds

Besides keeping the bird feeders filled, it's fun to create a holiday tree outdoors expressly for the birds. No matter whether an evergreen or a deciduous tree, decorate the branches with strands of cranberries, popcorn, and peanuts in the shells. Add "ornaments" of pine cones filled with a mixture of peanut butter, suet, cornmeal, wild bird seed, and raisins. Hang these from the tree with string or ribbon. Stale bagels spread with peanut butter and sprinkled with wild bird seed are easy to hang from the tree, too.

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