December, 2011
Regional Report

Brighten Outdoor Containers with Winter Greens and Branches

Tuck pine boughs, arborvitae branches, and chamaecyparis fans into your outdoor containers for extended winter cheer. Holly and pyracantha branches with berries, if the birds haven't devoured the red or orange treats, add color. Red- and yellow-twig dogwood branches too.

Gather Woodland Treasures for Craft Projects

Acorns, spiky gumballs, pine cones, interesting branches, wasp nests, fungi, hydrangea flowers, seed pods, seed heads are nature's gifts of art and science. Here's an opportunity to explore the outdoors, exercise, and bring back bounty to play with and study. Give everyone a bag to hold their finds. Back home, make a game of identifying the treasures. Get out the glue, wire, spray paint. Most of all, enjoy the process and appreciate the creations.

Check Indoor Plants for Hitchhikers

If you brought plants indoors for the winter, it's time to look closely for hitchhikers like scales, mealy bugs, aphids, spider mites, and fungus gnats. There are different techniques for removing the pests. Check online for the latest, least toxic suggestions for eliminating the invaders and preventing their return.

Clean and Disinfect Seed-Starting Materials

Yes, I'm guilty. I didn't disinfect the used plastic six-packs this spring. I was so eager to get the seedlings in the ground, I rinsed some packs but just shook and stacked others. Now I have the chlorine bleach, bucket, deep sink and some time. One of these dreary winter afternoons, I'll wash the packs in soapy water, rinse, and soak them in a 10 percent chlorine bleach solution. I'll do the same with the rectangular containers that hold the six-packs.

Take Advantage of Post-Holiday Sales

There are excellent bargains available after the holidays. Check out your local nurseries and garden centers for discounted seeds, pots, tools, decorative and functional garden accessories. These stores are as eager to move out old stock for the new spring line as you are for a good buy.

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