New England

December, 2011
Regional Report

Give Houseplants a Bath

The leaves of indoor plants get dusty, just like your furniture does, which can interfere with photosynthesis and transpiration, and provide insects a place to hide. Give smaller plants a rinse with the sprayer at the kitchen sink. Be sure to wash off both sides of the leaves. Larger plants can be set in the shower. The leaves of large-foliaged plants can be wiped off individually with a soft cloth dipped in a solution of a few drops of mild dish detergent in a quart of tepid water, then rinsed with clear water.

Care for Your Amaryllis

Once your amaryllis has finished flowering, cut off the flower stalks but not the leaves. Keep the plant in a sunny window, watering and feeding regularly. Move it to a partially shaded spot outdoors for the summer. In August stop fertilizing and cut back on water gradually over a period of about three weeks. Let the top die back completely; then let the bulb rest dormant in a cool, dark, dry spot for six to eight weeks or until you see some new growth pushing up. Bring back to the light and begin watering for another cycle of bloom.

Bring Home a New Houseplant

Banish the winter doldrums by visiting a local greenhouse or garden store and coming home with a new houseplant you haven't grown before. Assess your windowsill conditions of light and temperature and space first so the store's staff can help you select a plant that will thrive in your setting. Be sure to have the plant well-wrapped before carrying it to your car for the trip home to avoid chilling injury, and don't leave the plant in the car while you run other errands -- take it directly home.

Add Under-Cabinets Lights for Herbs

Install some fluorescent light strips along the undersides of your upper kitchen cabinets. Not only will they illuminate your counter work surface, they'll let you keep some potted herbs thriving where they'll be right at hand for a quick snip while you're cooking. A combination of cool and warm white bulbs will provide the spectrum of light plants need. Use an automatic timer to keep lights on 14 hours a day.

Look for Snow Fleas

Tiny marvels in the bleak winter landscape, snow fleas appear as minute black specks on the white surface of the snow. At times they can be so numerous that the snow appears dusted with ashes, and the entire swarm will rise up in a cloud when disturbed. Not actually fleas, these miniscule creatures are primitive insects called springtails. On their undersides they have a little spring-like lever held in place by a tiny clasp. Releasing the lever enables a springtail to jump a great distance relative to its body size -- like one of us jumping over a tall skyscraper! Where do they come from? On a warm day in winter, especially as the days begin to lengthen again, they migrate up from the soil through the snow to feed on pollen and algal cells that have drifted down to the snow's surface. Snow fleas pose no threat to plants, pets, or people. They are just one of nature's many wonders.

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