Spring Garden Tips

Melinda's Gardening Tips for Early December

Whether you are hoping for a big harvest, a beautiful landscape, or a little stress relief, knowing the when and how of gardening will help you be a success. Use these timely garden tips to eliminate some of the guesswork. For more gardening tips, check out Melinda's gardening books.


Deck the house with poinsettias, cyclamen, kalanchoes and more. Get the most out of your holiday plants by following these simple guidelines:

Remove plants from protective sleeves as soon as they arrive. Bend foil edges down so that light can reach all of the leaves, or remove the foil altogether.

Punch holes in the foil to allow excess water to drain out the bottom. Be sure to place the plant on a saucer to avoid damage.

Pour off excess water or place pebbles in baskets and saucers to prevent plants from sitting in excess water. Keep soil moist and plants in a cool, bright location.

Growing Green

Turn kitchen scraps into useful fertilizer or soil amendment. It's simple and a fun activity for the whole family. All you need is a plastic container, shredded paper, a handful of soil and a pound of red worms for every half pound of kitchen scraps generated each day. Punch holes in the bottom of the container, fill with shredded paper and moisten. Add the soil, kitchen scraps and worms. Stick with fruits, vegetable, coffee, unbleached coffee filters and all things plant related. This fun family activity generates worm castings for amending your garden soil and bait for fishing.

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Gardening Tips for Flowers

The holidays are fast approaching, and it is a good time to reflect on the recent garden season. Help make gift giving easier for your family and friends by making a wish list of items needed for next season. A new journal, plant labels, hand pruners, flower scissors, a harvest basket, a new shovel, a gift certificate to your favorite garden center, a load of manure (to be delivered at a later date!) and much more all make great holiday gifts to give and receive.

If you haven't done so already, collect, clean and store cages, stakes and other supports used in the garden. Evaluate and make a note in your garden journal of any changes or additions of supports you'll need in next year's garden.

Try forcing amaryllis and paper-whites into bloom for the holidays. These bulbs do not need a cold treatment. The "bloom-it-yourself" kits are readily available at most garden centers and make great gifts for others.

In zones 9 and 10, yes we northern gardeners are jealous, continue to plant hardy annuals like calendula, candytuft, dianthus, Iceland poppy, larkspur, pansy, petunia, primrose, snapdragon, stock, sweet alyssum, and viola. These annuals will add a wonderful color display through the holiday season.

A Fabulous Garden in 5 Easy Steps

Fall Landscape Care in 5 Easy Steps


Gardening Tips for Edibles

There is still time to plant a windowsill garden. It is a great distraction for the whole family. Use leftover seeds or scour the garden centers for their leftover inventory. Leafy crops, such as lettuce, do well in the low light indoors. Mix in radishes and mini carrots. Onions, parsley, basil, chives and other herbs are always good suggestions for indoor gardens.

Consider making several gardens with various plant combinations. They make great holiday gifts for both cooks and gardeners.

Herbs and indoor vegetables need very little fertilizer. Use a diluted solution of any complete fertilizer (10-10-10) for overwintering herbs and windowsill gardens. Read and follow all label directions.

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Trees, Shrubs and Roses

Prune out a few branches of red twig dogwood, juniper, winterberry, arborvitae, and yews to make beautiful holiday arrangements to add to your holiday décor. Cut the stems just prior to placing in a vase of water or block of moistened floral foam. These landscape plants make a great backdrop for cut flowers. Add a few carnations, roses or other colorful flowers. Replace the flowers as needed for a long-lasting colorful winter display.
Complete winter protection of roses after a week of freezing temperatures. Check on winter protection already in place. Make sure cages, rose cones and winter mulches such as straw, marsh hay and evergreen boughs are securely in place.

Secure fencing and animal barriers around trees and shrubs. Continue applying repellents such as Bobbex-R to areas and plants frequently browsed by animals. Bobbex-R is a year round product for all types of plantings, will not wash off during rain, snow, irrigation or normal watering. It is environmentally compatible and harmless to people, pets, birds and aquatic life, contains no petro-chemicals, and is made from natural and recycled ingredients. As always read and follow all label directions before applying.

Loosely tie upright arborvitae, junipers and yews that are subject to splitting. Use twine, strips of cotton cloth or old nylon stockings to tie the multiple stems together or try wrapping the plant with bird netting. This prevents snow loads and may discourage deer. Tying the stems prevents snow from building up on the plant, causing it to split and bend.

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Lawns and Groundcovers

Pachysandra, English ivy and other evergreen groundcovers may need a little added protection for the winter in northern regions. Those exposed to winter wind and sun may turn yellow or brown over winter. Protect exposed plantings with winter mulch. Place evergreen branches (a bit more festive) or straw over these tender plantings. Always wait until the ground freezes so the plants are dormant and those plant-damaging rodents have had time to find somewhere else to live and dine.

Winter, snow and de-icing salts have a major impact on our landscape. Identify any lawn areas that are killed each year by de-icing salt. Then evaluate your snow removal technique. Consider alternatives such as adding a border of annuals, expanding the walk or incorporating some other landscape feature instead of grass in these areas.

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Tips for Indoor Plants

Extend your garden season and share it with others. Frame your best garden or flower photos and give them as gifts. Use dried flowers from your garden to decorate gift packages and cards. A bouquet of dried flowers makes a great gift for any housebound person.

Check plants for signs of whiteflies, mites, fungus gnats, and aphids. Monitor these pests with yellow sticky traps placed near the infested plants. Control these pests with a strong blast of water to knock any pests away. Following with a treatment of insecticidal soap and repeating as necessary maybe the treatment for a highly infested plant.

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