Deadhead, Don't Cut Back Mums
Chrysanthemums include the painted daisy, the Shasta daisy and the hardy mum. Clip off the dead flowers on mums you planted this fall or were already in your garden. Don't cut back the stems now. Just shear off the flower heads. Cutback is best done in the spring. The nurserymen Yoder Brothers have research showing that mums cut back in early spring, rather than in the fall, survive hard winters better.
Clean Indoor Plant Leaves
Smooth-leaved houseplants and other plants brought inside for the winter benefit from a gentle wet wipe of the leaves. Examples include bay laurel, gardenia, lemon verbena, orchid, aloe, philodendron, peace lily, snake plant. Dust and dirt on the leaves filter sunlight. A clean plant looks good and is healthier than a dusty one. Gently use a sponge, soft cloth or paper towel to wipe the upper and lower surfaces of the leaves with tepid water or water with a mild or insecticidal soap. Test the solution on one leaf to make sure it doesn't cause damage. Use this opportunity to check for pests and diseases. Washing with insecticidal soap will remove pest eggs, larvae, and waste. Remove dead and yellow leaves. Clip off spotted or blemished parts.
Recycle Unused Gardening "Stuff"
Start the New Year with a clean slate-- well, maybe an uncluttered (less cluttered?) garden shed. I bet you have tools, sale items, watering devices, products that you haven't used for several seasons. I know I do. Pruners that just don't fit your hand, outgrown gloves, unwanted pots. Move them on. Donate them to a community garden or horticultural society or the library flea market collection.
Buy Birdseed Thoughtfully
Not all birdseed is created equal. Black-oil sunflower seed is the preferred meal of small feeder birds in the north. Hulled sunflower seed attracts a large array of birds, including jays, red-bellied woodpeckers, finches, goldfinches, northern cardinals, evening grosbeaks, pine grosbeaks, chickadees, titmice, nuthatches and grackles. Use seed without shells. Sunflower seed shells are allelopathic, meaning they contain a chemical that kills plants. Most small-beaked, ground-feeding birds like white and red millet, including quail, doves, juncos, sparrows, towhees, cowbirds and red-winged blackbirds. American goldfinches, lesser goldfinches, house finches, and common redpolls prefer thistle seed (nyjer). Suet and bird puddings (beef fat and seed) attract insect-eating birds such as woodpeckers, wrens, chickadees, nuthatches and titmice. The fillers milo, wheat and oats are frequently added to low-priced blends. As most birds discard them, they accumulate under feeders and attract rodents.
Wrap Figs, Camellias and Tender Shrubs
Wrapping marginally hardy shrubs and trees provides protection from winter's cold, wind and fluctuating temperatures. We use two layers; a polyblend textile such as Remay surrounded by burlap. Tying up columnar arborvitae and holly may save them from heavy snow damage. Start at the bottom and spiral up with the cord, string or rope. Encircle the shrub, catching all branches to bring them toward the shrub's center. Burlap is optional because this tying is done to avoid limb loss rather then provide protection from winter weather.