Northern & Central Midwest

December, 2009
Regional Report

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.

Force Flowering Branches

Now that woody shrubs and trees have had at least six weeks of cold, you can selectively prune branches to bring indoors for forcing. Some good choices: redbud, honeysuckle, flowering cherry, flowering pear, flowering quince, and of course, forsythia and crab apple. Soak branches in a tub of warm water overnight, and make fresh cuts before arranging in a vase.

Keep Cyclamen Cool

Keep your cyclamen cool and evenly moist but not soggy to prolong the blooms. Avoid sloshing water on the leaves, and remove faded flowers and foliage immediately. As everything fades, withhold water and let the tuber go dormant. Keep in a dark, cool spot until growth begins again.

Watch for Spider Mites

Watch for spider mites on houseplants. In the heating season, mite populations seem to explode in the hot, dry conditions. Look for webbing, stippling on the upper sides of leaves, and tiny mite bodies on the undersides of leaves. Tap leaf over a piece of paper. If the specks move, they are mites. If not, it's just dust.

Get Ready to Plant Flower Seeds

If you just have to start planting in January, get ready with these seeds (don't start your tomatoes!): periwinkle, lisianthus, garden geranium, tuberous begonia, mealycup sage, wax begonia, impatiens, onion, celery, cupflower, edging lobelia, heliotrope, ice plant, monkeyflower, petunia, and wishbone flower.

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