Thanksgiving has passed and the countdown to Christmas has begun. The weather has changed to accommodate all of you who enjoy "the cold". It hasn't been too bad as of yet but I'm afraid that might change this weekend. It looks as if the forecast is rain on Saturday turning to snow later in the evening. Yep, that's right, snow. Here is something that will probably surprise you. I actually get excited about the first snow. I talk about how much I hate the cold (still do) but I have to admit there is something pretty special about snow. It's like being a kid all over again. I'm sure you all know what I'm talking about. The weather forecasters start talking about it and then there is this excitement that builds up inside. So, if it snows this weekend I will probably react in a "Oh, isn't it pretty" kind of way. Yes, the first snow is special, even for me, the one who dislikes winter.
I am busy decorating the house for Christmas. The tree was purchased at Family Tree, a beautiful nine-foot Fraser fir and the ornaments have been hung. I have hired a friend to help me decorate my outside urns and window boxes this year. She is amazing!!! She has such a knack with flowers and greens. Her name is Tami Louiselle and she owns her own business, The Merry Potter. Her specialty is potted arrangements. I love collaborating with other gardeners. It is so much fun to learn from others!
The first day of winter is just a short 23 days away. Winter and Christmas will be here before we know it. I'm personally not quite ready for either.
Wind Damage To Evergreens...
Anyone else notice the cold, howling wind recently? Be warned - cold winter winds can cause injury to evergreens. Needles and leaves of evergreens may become discolored or develop a bleached out appearance, especially on windy sites. Winter burn is caused by the wind blowing over leaf surfaces and drawing water out of the plant, desiccating the plant tissue. Locations in full sun tend to fare worse. To protect plants, be sure soil is evenly moist up until freeze. During a dry fall, you may need to water regularly until the ground actually freezes. You may also want to consider protecting plants by wrapping them in burlap or putting up some sort of barrier to break the wind. Another option is an anti-desiccant spray. These are available from your local nursery or garden center. Anti-desiccant sprays create an invisible film on the leaf surface that reduces the amount of water lost to the wind and sun. If you choose to try an anti-desiccant, be sure to read and follow the product labeling.
Getting A Handle On Gift Giving...
If you're thinking about buying garden tools as gifts for that special gardener make sure you choose them carefully. Getting the basics right can be the difference between a tool that helps the gardener versus one that frustrates.
- Grips - The right tool starts with a good grip. For starters, it should be pliable and non-slip. A pliable, soft grip will protect your joints and help keep your hand from cramping. A non-slip handle means you don't have to waste energy hanging onto the tool.
- Handles - Tools with longer handles will make it easier to garden by saving you from bending over or overextending your reach in the garden. A long handle will also give you some leverage and help you in using the tool.
- Weight - Check the weight of any tool you're going to buy. It should be heavy enough to be durable but not so heavy it is fatiguing to use. A lightweight tool means more energy to garden.
- Quality - Good tools, well taken care of will last forever. Those tools that get daily use (trowels come to mind) should be made of materials that are both durable and effective. Stainless steel and carbon steel blades are best.
From our friends at University of Missouri Extension here are some good tips to make your poinsettias last longer and retain their color. Consumers should consider several factors when buying a poinsettia plant, said David Trinklein, professor of horticulture. The plant should have bright bracts and healthy foliage that does not look wilted. Its cyathia, the true flower in the center of the bracts, should be tightly clustered and just starting to shed pollen. Once it is brought home these tips will keep it healthy and happy:
- Place it in a brightly lit location away from cold drafts or hot air registers.
- Color can be prolonged if the plant is kept at 60° to 72° with high humidity.
- Don't overwater a poinsettia. Water only when the surface of the growing medium is dry to the touch.
- If the pot containing the plant is foil-covered, be sure there is a drainage hole in the foil. Empty any water that might drain through the pot and collect in the saucer below.
This is a good time to remember that pesticides are dangerous poisons and must be stored properly for the winter months. Store them in a frost-free location away from food and out of the reach of children. If a pesticide is in a paper container, put the whole package in a plastic container and seal it well. Be sure that all bottles and cans are tightly sealed and well labeled.
Store liquid pesticides where temperatures will not fall below 40°F. Too low a temperature may result in a breakdown of the chemical. Also, if the liquid should freeze, there is the danger of the glass container breaking and scattering the chemical in the storage area.
Cold Facts On Watering Houseplants...
Before you give your houseplants that next drink you should know that according to Ohio State researchers cold water can destroy the ability of root cells to take in water and nutrients. Water below 50°F was found to reduce leaf size, cause leaf drop, and eventually contribute to the death of potted plants. Those requiring frequent watering, such as spathiphyllum and ficus, are especially prone to damage and should not be watered with water below 65°F. Other tests show that warmer water (about 90°F) actually stimulates growth.
All Wrapped Up...
You've seen tree trunks wrapped up for the winter but do you really know why? The aim of tree wrapping is to keep the trunk from heating unevenly on bright, sunny, winter days. Bark tends to split as it cools rapidly after the winter sun has warmed the south and west sides of the tree. Most Savvygardeners use commercially available tree wraps or put up canvas or burlap screens to shade young fruit trees. But even a plank leaned up against the south side of the trunk will help. Painting trunks with white latex paint is a technique common in orchards to achieve the same purpose. You should consider these protective measures if you have young, tender-barked trees like fruit trees.
If you're looking for a way to get a small child interested in gardening you might consider growing some carnivorous plants indoors this winter. We're talking about Venus Fly Traps, Pitcher Plants, and Sundew. Any and all of these insect eaters will capture the imagination of kids (of all ages). Some hints:
- Carnivorous plants require a moist, acidic growing medium, high relative humidity, and bright light.
- Try growing them in a fish aquarium or large terrarium. A piece of Plexiglas placed over the top will help maintain a high relative humidity. Ventilation can be provided by keeping the Plexiglas slightly ajar.
- Use 2 parts sphagnum peat moss and one part coarse sand as a growing medium. Place one inch of coarse gravel on the bottom before adding the growing medium.
- Good lighting is essential for carnivorous plants. An east or west facing window that receives at least 1 or 2 hours of direct sun is fine. A fluorescent light fixture containing two 40 watt tubes can be used in poorly lit areas.
- Day-time temperatures should be 70° to 75°F during the summer and 55° to 60°F in winter.
- Water with rain or distilled water. Tap water may be too alkaline or contain too many minerals.
- There is usually no need to fertilize carnivorous plants. These plants are native to areas with low nutrient levels.
"Exclusiveness in a garden is a mistake as great as it is in society."
~ Alfred Austin
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