New England

December, 2001
Regional Report

Check Old Seeds

Before placing your seed orders, do a germination test on stored seeds to see how viable they are. To do this, place 20 seeds between two sheets of moist paper towel and tuck into a loosely tied plastic bag. Place in a warm area, and check every few days. If germination is less than 80 percent, consider purchasing new seed of that crop.

Control Spider Mites on Houseplants

Many houseplants, including as palms and cyclamen, are attacked by spider mites this time of year. Mist plants lightly; if mites are present the water droplets will cling to the mites' fine webbing. Mites are microscopic creatures that suck plant juices, causing the leaves to look speckled or silvery. Control spider mites by misting plants daily to keep the humidity high (spider mites love dryness) and by spraying with insecticidal soap.

Care for Amaryllis

With some care you can coax your amaryllis to bloom again next year. Cut back the flower stalk (but not the leaves) and continue watering and fertilizing the bulb. In summer, place the pot outdoors in a protected environment. In fall, bring it indoors and let the leaves die back and the bulb go dormant. In November, start watering again, and it may bloom again in the winter.

Recycle Christmas Tree

Many municipalities will chip old Christmas trees and allow residents to use the resulting mulch. Or prop the tree in the yard and hang suet or other bird feeders from the branches. You'll be helping your feathered friends, and you'll be able to enjoy the show for months.

Continue Composting

Continue adding prunings and vegetable scraps to your compost pile throughout the winter. Although the composting process slows down in cold weather, it will pick up again when the weather warms in the spring. Cover the pile loosely with a tarp to prevent it from getting soggy.

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