New England

December, 2010
Regional Report

Clean and Oil Tools

Make sure all your garden tools are cleaned and wiped with a light coat of oil to prevent rust before you store them for the winter. Be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions for winterizing your lawn mower and any other power tools before storing. Store the battery to rechargeable tools like string trimmers inside.

Keep Pets Safe from Poisonous Holiday Plants

According to the ASPCA, the latex sap of poinsettias is a mouth and stomach irritant to both dogs and cats that can sometimes cause vomiting, but its toxicity is generally overrated. But be cautious with many of the other common holiday plants. Amaryllis, azalea, cyclamen, kalanchoe and clivia are all on their list of plants that are toxic to dogs and cats.

Do Your Dusting

Dusty houseplant leaves not only look unattractive, they can reduce a plant's ability to photosynthesize. Wipe broad-leaved houseplants like cotons or rubber plants with a soft, damp cloth. Or bring plants to the kitchen sink or shower for a spray of tepid water to clean their leaves. Brush the dust off the hairy leaves of African violets with a small, soft artist's paint brush.

Keep Your Florist's Azalea Happy

Potted azaleas are popular gift plants at this time of year. Keep yours thriving by giving it bright light, cool temperatures (days no higher than 68 degree F and nights in the 45-55 degree F range are ideal) and evenly moist soil, and misting it occasionally to increase humidity. Pick off flowers as they fade to keep the plant in bloom. Next spring, when all danger of frost is past, put it outside for the summer in a lightly shaded spot. Fertilize monthly with an acid-forming fertilizer until flower buds form in fall or winter. Leave it outside until temperatures dip down near freezing next fall to give it the chilling period it needs to re-bloom. Then bring it back inside to a sunny windowsill to enjoy its late winter or early spring flowers again.

Keep Your Christmas Tree Watered

If you are selecting a cut tree, choose one that doesn't drop its needles when you bump the trunk against the ground. When you get your tree home, recut the base of trunk, taking off a couple of inches, and immediately set it in a tree stand filled with warm water. Trees can take up a surprisingly large amount of water, so check the stand's reservoir daily to make sure it never runs out of water.

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