This week's gardening tips from the Savvygardener.

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This Week's Photos, Inc.











December 5, 2007


Bundled Up...
Yesterday was pleasant, today is dreadful. The North wind's bite stings. I don't feel like being outside today but I have to pick up the kids, walk the dog and all of the things that moms do. I pulled out my big winter coat, scarf and gloves. I look a bit like Nanook of the North. Pretty funny actually. I am all bundled up with my scarf close around my face keeping the wind at bay. It's the only way to go. I can't go out in weather like this unless I am prepared. I look pretty ridiculous but in a ridiculously warm kind of way.

It looks as if we might be getting a snow-ice mixture sometime tomorrow. I think they are calling for it early in the day. The snow I don't mind - it is the ice that can be dangerous for both humans and plants. Use caution when it comes to knocking ice off trees and shrubs. And if you don't know what to do go to our website and search under "What to do with ice on trees and shrubs" and you will find some tips listed to assist you. I am going to hope that the ice misses us but a little snow would be nice.

~ Shelly  

Wind Damage To Evergreens...
Anyone else notice the cold, howling wind today? 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 up until the ground 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 the 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.  


Holiday Window Boxes...
If your empty window boxes are begging for some winter substance try filling them creatively with evergreen branches inserted into the soil.  If the soil is already frozen soften it with warm water first.  You will find that balsam fir branches will hold their blue-green needles until spring.  For added color try bittersweet, holly berries, and strawflowers.

Household Humidity Help...
You know that dry feeling you get in a heated house all winter long?  Your houseplants like it even less than you do.  They actually prefer a relative humidity of 40 to 50 percent but suffer under humidity levels of 10 to 20 percent common in many homes during the winter months.  What to do?  Humidifiers are an excellent way to increase the relative humidity in the home.  Grouping plants together is an easy way to raise humidity levels as well. The water evaporating from the potting soil, plus water lost through the plant foliage, will increase the relative humidity in the vicinity of the houseplants.  Another method is to place houseplants on trays (saucers) filled with pea gravel or pebbles.  Add water to the trays, but keep the bottoms of the pots above the water line.  The evaporation of water from the trays increases the relative humidity.  

By the way, misting houseplants is not an effective way to raise the relative humidity.  The plant foliage dries quickly after misting and would have to be done several times a day to be effective at all.


Poinsettias Perfected...
From our friends at University of Missouri Extension here are some good tips to make your poinsettias last longer and retain their colorConsumers 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.


Pacing Your Paperwhites...
As the holidays near, you can adjust the bloom time of your forced paperwhites.  If they are coming along too quickly, place them in a cool room (50-60 F) and water less frequently.  If you need to speed them up a bit, place them in the warmest room in the house.  With a little luck they'll be blooming right on time!

Put Your Mower Away...
If you are done mowing for the year, be sure to service your mower before putting it away.

  • Drain the gas tank of gasoline powered engines or use a gasoline stabilizer. Untreated gasoline can become thick and gummy.
  • A few drops of oil squirted inside the spark plug hole (after you remove the spark plug) will help lubricate the cylinder.
  • While you have the spark plug removed, replace it with a new one.
  • If your equipment has a battery, clean the battery terminals of any corrosion that may have occurred during the season. A wire-bristle brush is a good tool for doing this.
  • The battery can then be removed or connected to a battery monitor that will keep it charged over winter.
  • If you remove the battery, be sure to store it in a protected location for the winter season (a cool basement works best).


"In my garden I can find solitude. I can go out there and say, "No phone, no interruptions, I am busy," and then shut myself off for a little while."

~ Helen Hayes

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