This Week's Gardening Tips from the Savvygardener
Missouri Organic Mulch, Compost, Bulk Soil
In This Issue
~ Preventing Snow Mold ~ Illuminating Houseplant Help ~ Living Christmas Trees
~ Acid Test ~ Two Out Of Three Wise Men ~ Holiday Window Boxes
~ Winterize Power Tools   ~ Inspiration
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~ December 17, 2008 ~

Time To Take A Breather...
I have to laugh at myself. This weeks quote captures perfectly what I am feeling. We have had sleet, snow, unbearable temperatures and I am already asking myself, "When will spring arrive?" I'm such a silly girl. Winter hasn't even officially arrived and all I can wish for are warmer, sunnier days. At least there were periods of sunshine today. The past couple of days have been pretty dreary. The kids were greatly disappointed that school was not canceled on Monday or Tuesday. I on the other hand still have many errands to run in preparation for Christmas and was glad that school was on as usual. We are home for the holidays and I keep telling the kids that there will plenty of "together" time for the next two weeks. I'm actually looking forward to slowing down and taking a breather. We could all use some time to regroup before the new year begins. We are blessed to have each other and will spend Christmas break having sleepovers with friends, taking in movies, reading books and maybe visiting a couple of museums. Things that we would like to do but sometimes are so busy that we just don't make the time.

~ Shelly   

Preventing Snow Mold...
This week's snow found some of us with a fair amount of unraked leaves on the ground. Don't leave them there! First on your "to do" list once the snow melts - rake up those leaves. It's just not healthy for the turf to have wet leaves smothering it all winter. Additional snows that may have greater longevity (on top of those unraked leaves) can lead to snow mold - a possibility and it is best avoided.

Acid Test...
Mulching your perennials is very important in wintertime. If possible mulch the root zones of your azaleas and rhododendrons with oak leaves, shredded oak bark or pine needles. Each will add a little bid of acidity to the delight of these acid-loving plants.

Winterize Power Tools...
Power tools and other gas-powered equipment need winterizing before being put away for the season. Here are some basics:

  • Oil should be changed and moving parts lubricated.
  • Fuel systems should either be drained or have a gas stabilizing additive mixed into the fuel.

These simple steps will help ensure a longer lasting machine as well as a better chance of a successful "cold-start" next spring.

Illuminating Houseplant Help...
To keep your houseplants healthy you may need to compensate for the short days and long nights of winter. Try moving them closer to windows but make sure their foliage doesn't actually touch the cold window. Supplemental lighting is another option.  Light units containing special grow lights can be purchased from mail-order companies or at garden centers. You can also build your own lighting structure. A standard fluorescent unit containing one cool white 40 watt tube and one warm white 40 watt tube provides adequate light for most houseplants. Plants should be placed within 6 to 12 inches of the lights for maximum benefit.


Two Out Of Three Wise Men Recommend...
The holiday season is full of traditions involving the plants we grow. Wreaths, mistletoe, Christmas trees, the list goes on. How about frankincense and myrrh? What is that stuff anyway? Well, they are both resins - dried tree sap - that come from trees of the genus Boswellia (frankincense) and Commiphora (myrrh). The way that people collect the sap is similar to the way people collect rubber tree sap or pine tree sap. Cutting the tree's bark causes the sap to ooze out of the cut. The sap used to create both of these famous resins comes slowly and is allowed to dry on the tree. Both in the time of the three wise men and today, frankincense and myrrh are most commonly used to create incense.

Living Christmas Trees...
A number of Americans have gotten into the habit of decorating for the season with a living, "renewable" Christmas Tree. If you are among those planning on using a living Christmas Tree this year you should keep a few things in mind:

  1. Plan to keep the tree in the home for as short a time as possible. The maximum time in the house should be five to seven days; the longer it is kept in the house, the greater the risk of failure. If kept inside too long, the tree begins to grow and is damaged or killed when planted outside in the cold temperatures.
  2. Remember the tree will need adequate water inside the home. The soil ball or pot should be kept moist but not wet; wrap the soil ball or pot in plastic or place in a tub while it is in the house to avoid damaging the floor or carpet. Check the soil ball or pot daily, and water when it becomes dry.
  3. Locate it away from heat sources such as fireplaces, registers, wood stoves, and space heaters. Decorate with care; avoid heat producing lights, flocking or artificial snow. Use cool lights and avoid causing damage to the tree with heavy ornaments or decorations.
  4. After Christmas, remove the decorations and move the tree back to the cool but non-freezing storage location for three or four days to gradually acclimate it to cooler temperatures. Again, do not allow the soil ball or pot to freeze during this acclimation period.
  5. After the acclimation period, plant the tree in the pre-dug and mulched hole using good tree planting techniques. Remove the pot or as much of the burlap as possible without disturbing the root system. Firm the soil around the root system, water well and mulch heavily with straw or composted wood chips over and beyond the planting area to minimize soil temperature fluctuations.


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.

"If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?"

~ Percy Bysshe Shelley



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