Family traditions are a big part of the holiday season. Many families have created landscapes that are planted with evergreens from Christmas past. Memories grow on with Spruce, Fir and Pines that were once a part of the holiday festivities. Properly planned, a live tree can be decorated, enjoyed and eventually planted in the space of three to four weeks surrounding Christmas day.
If you plan to buy one of these live trees, decide in time to take the proper steps to insure a successful transplant. First, select the spot where the tree will be planted and dig the hole early in December before the ground freezes. Dig a hole that is suitable in size to the root that you are planning on planting. Remember, measure twice and cut once! You might want to store your backfill in a wheelbarrow that is sheltered in the garage until you need it. This will insure that the soil in workable and not reduced to a frozen mound of un-movable earth. Next, fill in the hole with leaves and cover it with a tarp until you plan to plant.
Plan on keeping your tree indoors no more than 7-10 days. This way it will only need to put up with dry warm air for a short time. Keep the root ball moist at all times. Many use wooden barrels, plastic or galvanized tubs in order to water properly and yet protect the floor.
After Christmas, plan on acclimating your tree to the outdoors for about two-three days. This can be done in a screened porch or garage. Afterwards, carry your tree to its prepared site. Remove the tarp, scoop out the leaves and place the root ball in the hole. Add the soil from your stored wheelbarrow to fill the hole completely-firm it well with your feet. Give the tree several buckets of water at this time. Mulch the tree in well with the leaves or other compost or bark mulch.
Poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima) remain one of the most popular holiday flowers. Hybridizers have expanded the range of colors from the familiar red to pastel yellow and vibrant bi-colors. One of the most common questions after Christmas is “How can I care for my poinsettia so that it will bloom again next Christmas?”. While this can be done, it’s a very fussy, exacting process and since the plants are not that expensive, you might just choose to start fresh next year.
For those of you who are undaunted, the process for saving your poinsettia and getting it to rebloom begins with the care you give it the first season.
When You First Bring Your Poinsettia Home
Light – Place it near a sunny window. South, east or west facing windows are preferable to a north facing window. Poinsettias are tropicals and will appreciate as much direct sunlight as you can provide.
Heat – To keep the poinsettia in bloom as long as possible, maintain a temperature of 65 – 75 degrees F. during the day. Dropping the temperature to about 60 degrees F. at night will not hurt the plant. However, cold drafts or allowing the leaves to touch a cold window ca injure the leaves and cause premature leaf drop. If you’ve ever see a gangly poinsettia in bloom, with only a couple of sad looking leaves hanging on, it was probably exposed to temperatures that were too cool or extreme shifts in temperature.
Water – Water the plant whenever the surface feels dry to the touch. Water until it drains out the bottom, but don’t let the plant sit in water. Wilting is another common cause of leaf drop. A wilted plant can be revived and salvaged, but it will take another season to improve its appearance.
Humidity – Lack of humidity during dry seasons, in particular winter, is an ongoing houseplant problem. If your home tends to be dry and your poinsettia is in direct light, you will find yourself watering frequently, possibly every day.
Birds bring many benefits to our lives. They fill our gardens with song, bring a spark of color and interest to our winter landscapes, and also eat many garden pests. Attracting birds to your landscape is fun. Their needs are easy to meet and just about everyone can achieve success by providing them with three basics things: shelter, water, and food.
If you have evergreen trees or shrubs, or maybe a tall canopy of shade trees, then you have the element of shelter. Birds need protection during feeding and bathing from cats and other predators. Try to position feeders and birdbaths close enough to natural shelter so that birds can perch safely between trips to the feeder, but yet far enough away so that they don’t make an easy target for the neighbor’s cat.
Water can be the most alluring aspect of your landscape. The sound of splashing water is relaxing and will also attract colorful birds. Birdbaths and small fountains are great accents for your yard and will provide your new guests with one of their most basic requirements. A shallow water source is all they need.
Consider placing your bird feeder adjacent to your water source. Once you have attracted birds to your yard, you don’t want to play hide-and-seek with the food source. Feeders can be hung from tree limbs, mounted on a freestanding pole, or even hung from the shepherd’s hook that held a hanging basket in spring. To stock your feeders, use birdseed mixes high in sunflower seed to attract the greatest variety of birds. Cardinals love black oil and striped sunflower as well as safflower seed. Suet cakes are great for woodpeckers, chickadees, titmice, and nuthatches.
Another helpful tip is to scatter some seed on the ground around your feeder. This will attract mourning doves and other ground feeders. It’s easy to create a safe haven for birds in your yard. The enjoyment they bring will last a lifetime. Put out your feeder today!
Christmas Cacti are easy to grow. When they bloom, they produce colorful tubular flowers in pink or lilac colors. They bloom a long time indoors and they are low-maintenance houseplants, which makes them popular. We’ll bet someone in your family has a Christmas Cactus!
Despite their name, Christmas cacti are not desert cacti. Their natural habit is one of an epiphyte living in tree branches in the rain forest of Brazil! In other words, they prefer a humid climate, not a dry one, so it’s important to water these cacti. (See more details below.)
Also, note that there are several types of holiday cacti: Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. They bloom closest to the holiday of their name. Christmas cacti have flattened leaves with rounded teeth on the margins as opposed to the Thanksgiving cactus that has pointed teeth. Easter cacti have pointed teeth with fibrous hairs in the leaf joints.
To confuse matters further, most of the Christmas cactus sold are actually Thanksgiving cactus. If you find your Christmas cactus blooming near Thanksgiving, guess what?
If your Christmas Cacti is exposed to any type of stress, the plant will drop its blossoms. This could be related to amount of light, or a sudden change in temperature, as discussed in above plant care section. Also, ensure that your soil doesn’t get too dry.
The plant may be susceptible to mealy bugs and, if over-watered, root rot. If you have problems, cut out infected areas and repot in clean soil.
As your lawn endures the trials of job this summer – drought, pestilence and disease – you must hold to the hope that there is a lush, green turf on the other side of this summer. Has your spring turf been reduced to an arid, brown toasty color? If not, you might want to submit your water bills for federal disaster relief. Dry, scorching heat is the perfect scenario for crabgrass to flourish and bluegrass to perish. What’s needed, of course, is a good, deep penetrating rain.
The large Japanese beetle population will mean a heavier than normal population of grubs. Knowledge is of course your best defense. Here are a couple of suggestion for coaxing your sod through the trials of summer…
Feeding: Your lawn’s nitrogen needs are at their highest in late summer. Avoid fertilizing when temps are about 85 degrees. Supplement this late summer feed (high in nitrogen) with a fall fertilizer that will concentrate on developing the root system. This will build a turf more resistant to drought and pest damage. This might be your most beneficial feeding. You can supply a fall food right into November in most areas.
Pest Control: In late summer and early fall the grub cycle begins as the larvae pupate into the common white lawn grub. At this stage of their development, these grubs are the most vulnerable. Treat infested areas with milky spore, an organic alternative to harsh chemicals. For more information visit the NOFA website.
Watering: A good rule of thumb is to water in the early morning hours. Try to provide at least 1 to 1.5 inches of water through rainfall or irrigation. A deep watering once a week is more beneficial than a series of shallow watering.
Seeding: To repair damage caused by drought, pests and disease, plan on a fall seeding program. Match the grass seed varieties to the conditions. For example, if you have a rocky, sandy soil that doesn’t hold moisture well, use a drought resistant lawn mixture featuring turf-type tall fescues (TTTF). Unlike ryegrass that spread by shallow rhizomes, TTTF have long individual tap roots. They are tough, durable and make a long wearing attractive turf. Heavy clay soils might do better with a bluegrass and ryegrass mixture. Fall is an optimum time for seeding. The warm weather speeds germination while the autumn night temps start to drop. Remember to keep the seed moist until established. That might require 2-3 mistings during our “Indian Summers”. The attention you pay to your lawn now will pay big dividends in the fall, the following spring and for years to come.
Much like an artist uses oils, the gardener uses plants to paint strokes of color across the landscape. Part of the art and beauty of gardening lies in the ability to combine nature’s hues in a way that delights the eye and engages the viewer. Some instinctively know which colors work well together and the exact shade to use to perk up a drab border. For others, the process is more hit or miss, moving plants around to find the right combinations. Whether your tastes run to brilliant reds and yellows or restful blues and greens, the secret to creating the look and feel you want in the garden is often simply a matter of understanding the effects of different color combinations.
Analogous colors are those that are closely related on the color wheel. Yellows, oranges, and red-oranges (or blues and violets) used together create a feeling of harmony. Combining analogous colors is perhaps the most popular color scheme used in gardening.
Complementary colors are colors that are opposite on the color wheel, such as violet and yellow, blue and orange, and red and green. These colors offer the greatest contrast, so the effect can be bold and dramatic, even vibrating. Be careful not to mix small amounts of complementary colors together, however, as from a distance the colors will tend to blend, appearing gray. Larger areas of one color positioned against an area of its complement will work to create an exciting contrast.
Triadic colors are groups of three colors that are spaced equidistant from one another on the color wheel. Using areas of primary colors, such as red, blue, and yellow, together in your garden can create a dramatic effect. As with complementary colors, too many small patches of varying color can create a gray or neutral tone from a distance. Plant larger areas of color to benefit from this electric contrast.
A single color used throughout the garden can create a wonderful feeling of unity. To keep this area from becoming too monotonous, use plants of varying textures and varying degrees of value (lights and darks). An all-white garden, featuring silvery-greens along with a variety of white blossoms, will impart a feeling of purity and light. You can add hints of pale blue for a cool, quiet mood, or warm things up with a splash of yellow.
Cool colors, such as blues, violets, and pinks, can create a quiet, calming effect, while warm colors, such as bright yellows, oranges, and reds, tend to make a bold and dramatic statement. Placing plants with cool colors, which recede from the eye, behind those with warm colors, which advance, creates the illusion of depth in a small space.
Perhaps the best rule to follow in creating a color statement in your garden is to experiment. Try unusual combinations of color together to see for yourself what works for you in your space. Move plants around…as a color that isn’t quite working in one area may look great in another.