Here’s your list of December gardening tips. Check it twice.
• Try to keep your holiday cactus in the coolest possible room. This will help delay the opening of the buds until Christmas. Always feed your plant with Super Bloom when watering while the plant is flowering.
• Keep leaves raked-up on your lawn and landscape areas. Allowing them to remain creates an environment for over-wintering insects and diseases. Whenever possible compost the leaves for use next spring.
• Buy your Cut Christmas tree now. Balsam, Fraser Fir, Noble Fir, and Douglas Fir trees are the best choice because they absorb water more freely, making them the safest indoor cut tree.
• Before you purchase a cut tree, try to break off a small branch with your fingers. If it snaps, off consider it dead. If it does not snap off, cut off a small piece and see if it is green or white, which means the tree is still alive and a good Christmas tree.
• Consider spraying your cut or balled tree, fresh evergreen wreaths and greens with Wilt-Pruf. This will help it to retain moisture in the needles throughout the holidays and prevent premature needle drop. It can also be used outdoors to keep not only cut greens fresh but will protect evergreen plants as well. Winter winds tend to dehydrate evergreen leaves on hollies, camellias, azaleas, rhododendron, mahonia and other broadleaf evergreens. One application of Wilt-Pruf will protect these plants all winter long.
• Fireproof your tree by using the following homemade recipe: In a four-gallon bucket add two gallons of hot water, one pint Karo white corn syrup, 4 ounces of liquid chlorine bleach, two teaspoons of 20 mule team borax, two ounces of vinegar and two ounces of Wilt-Pruf. Cut one to two inches off the bottom of the tree and place the tree stump into the mixture, leaving it in the mixture for five days. Remember to prevent the solution from freezing. The tree will remain flame-retardant and will stay that way if you keep the tree in the same mixture.
• When you purchase plants, request a plastic or paper sleeve or sack be placed around them for protection against cold temperatures (most houseplants are damaged by temperatures less than 50 degrees F). Don’t allow live plants to sit in a cold car while you run holiday errands. Arrange your shopping so that plants go straight home when temperatures are in the freezing range. When you get home, remove the colorful paper, plastic, or foil covers from pots to allow water to drain. Otherwise, holiday plants will likely experience some form of root rot.
• As a reminder, store all your chemicals, tools and unused seed for the winter. Avoid storing pesticides where they will freeze, like in a garage or shed. Some materials cannot withstand cold temperatures and will become ineffective. If odor is an issue, store in tightly sealed containers. All garden hand tools should be cleaned and sanitized with alcohol, and all unused seeds should be stored in air-tight containers in the refrigerator.
• Never display a fresh green wreath in between the storm and front doors. The intensity of the sun will bake it turn it brown.
• Cyclamen thrive in cool temperatures (50-60 degrees F). Place them in a spot where temps tumble overnight. Display them in a warmer spot during daylight hours — somewhere you can enjoy the pretty blooms. Keep soil consistently moist.
• There is still time to transplant plants and divide perennials. The unseasonable temperatures have allowed the ground temperatures to remain high and we have had an abundance of moisture. This combination will ensure that your labor will be successful.
(Editor’s Note: Ken Morgan is the owner of Robin’s Nest Floral and Garden Center in Easton, Md.)