Upper South

December, 2012
Regional Report

Celebrate the Holidays with the Birds

Feeding birds in the winter months brings color and life to the garden during this dreary time. Besides your regular feeders filled with black oil sunflower seed, the favorite of the most of the bird species, try nyger seed, suet, and a high-quality mix. For the holidays, add to this assortment by decorating a tree with strings of popcorn and cranberries, slices of apples and oranges, and pine cones smeared with peanut butter.

Keep Holiday Plants in Bloom

Poinsettias are the premier plant for decorating our homes during the holidays, but try at least one of the other possibilities as well, such as a cyclamen, azalea, or orchid. Although these plants may have different needs, you can have them blooming for many weeks by choosing ones that still have many buds, providing the best light possible, keeping them away from cold, drafty locations, and letting the soil dry out slightly between thorough waterings.

Make Plans to Include Children in the Garden

When children get to experience growing their own food or flowers or learn to appreciate birds, bugs or nature in general, the benefits often last a lifetime. Whether your own children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, cousins, those of a friend or neighbor, or at a local school, think about the ways that you can involve them with gardening in the upcoming year. Be thoughtful in who you choose to involve as well as how you choose to provide help. Let the children be your guide.

Have a Natural Holiday

Avoid the environmentally unfriendly plastic greenery, and use fresh evergreens from the garden throughout your home. Include seed heads from perennials as well as holly and other berries for texture and color. Be creative -- even bare branches, perhaps combined with tiny lights, can make a beautiful decoration. Buy some fresh cut flowers and make simple arrangements for your home. Use grapevine cuttings to make wreaths. Attach tiny cones or acorns to packages. Fill large glass vases with pine cones or make a seasonal potpourri from greens and small cones.

Monitor Soil Moisture

Deciduous trees and shrubs in the garden are in a dormant phase during the winter and require only minimal care. But the growth and physiological activity of evergreen trees and shrubs continues, although it certainly slows down. Their need for water is especially important since, unlike deciduous plants, evergreens continue to use water during the winter. It's important during winter thaws to check the soil around evergreens to make sure it is moist. If not, water to several inches deep. Mulching around evergreens and applying an anti-transpirant spray to the leaves is also beneficial.

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