New England

December, 2010
Regional Report

Keep Gift Plants Happy

When transporting holiday gift plants, be sure to enclose them in a sleeve or bag to protect them from the cold, even for a short dash to the car. And make your plant purchase your last stop; don't leave plants sitting in a cold car while you run other errands. At home, remove at least the bottom section of any decorative foil around the pots or punch some holes in the foil so water can drain out.

Poinsettia Pointers

Give your poinsettia bright light, but keep it away from drafts near windows, doors, heating vents or fireplaces. Modern varieties can hold onto their colored bracts for months after the holidays. To keep your plant thriving, keep soil lightly moist at all times and feed with an African violet-type fertilizer (high in phosphorus) every 2-3 weeks.

Mulch Perennial Beds

Once the ground is frozen hard, spread a loose organic mulch like straw or chopped leaves in perennial beds. The mulch will help protect plants from being heaved out of the soil due to the alternate freezing and thawing of the soil over the winter, especially after brief mid-winter warm spells. Pay special attention to plants that were planted or divided in the fall as they may not have developed enough of a root system yet to anchor them well in the soil.

Stockpile Safe De-Icers

Lay in a supply of abrasives such as sand or kitty litter to sprinkle over icy sidewalks and drives. Try to minimize the use of de-icer salts that can damage plants and soils, pollute waterways with run-off and corrode concrete and metals. If you feel you must use salts, calcium chloride properly applied causes less plant damage than rock salt. And don't overapply. Mix with an abrasive and start with a small amount as soon as icing begins. Keep adding additional small amounts as needed and you'll get the most melting for the least amount of chemicals.

Protect Young Trees

Wrap the trunks of young trees with tree wrap tape or spiral plastic protectors to prevent damage from sun scald and frost cracks. Enclose the trunks in cylindrical cages made of hardware cloth to protect trunks from being nibbled on by rodents and rabbits. Extend the wire cages into the soil a few inches and make them tall enough to keep rabbits on top of the snow from reaching the trunks, usually 18-24" above the anticipated snow line.

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