Northern & Central Midwest
Add Preservative to Christmas Tree Water
With a live, cut Christmas tree, it's important to keep the stand filled with water so the tree doesn't dry out. A fresh tree can utilize up to a quart of water a day, so check daily. You can add a commercial preservative to the water, or make your own by mixing one 12-ounce can of lemon-lime soft drink and 2 tablespoons of household bleach in 1 gallon of water. The tree's freshness is also prolonged by keeping away from fireplaces or radiators as well as south- or west-facing windows.
Force Flowering Branches
Now that woody shrubs and trees have had at least six weeks of cold, you can selectively prune branches to bring indoors for forcing. Some good choices: redbud, honeysuckle, flowering cherry, flowering pear, flowering quince, and of course, forsythia and crab apple. Soak branches in a tub of warm water overnight, and make fresh cuts before arranging in a vase.
Keep Cyclamen Cool
Keep your cyclamen cool and evenly moist but not soggy to prolong the blooms. Avoid sloshing water on the leaves, and remove faded flowers and foliage immediately. As everything fades, withhold water and let the tuber go dormant. Keep in a dark, cool spot until growth begins again.
Watch for Spider Mites
Watch for spider mites on houseplants. In the heating season, mite populations seem to explode in the hot, dry conditions. Look for webbing, stippling on the upper sides of leaves, and tiny mite bodies on the undersides of leaves. Tap leaf over a piece of paper. If the specks move, they are mites. If not, it's just dust.
Get Ready to Plant Flower Seeds
If you just have to start planting in January, get ready with these seeds (don't start your tomatoes!): periwinkle, lisianthus, garden geranium, tuberous begonia, mealycup sage, wax begonia, impatiens, onion, celery, cupflower, edging lobelia, heliotrope, ice plant, monkeyflower, petunia, and wishbone flower.