Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

New England

December, 2003
Regional Report

Using Last Year's Seeds

If you save seeds from year to year, it's time to do a germination test so you'll know if they will germinate well this year, or if it's time to order new seeds. To do this, place 20 seeds between two sheets of moist paper towels and tuck into a loosely tied plastic bag. Place in a warm area, and check every few days. If germination is less than 80 percent, consider purchasing new seed of that crop.

Watch Closely for Spider Mites

Many houseplants, including palms and cyclamen, are attacked by spider mites this time of year. To scout for these pests, mist the plants lightly; if mites are present, the water droplets will cling to the mites' fine webbing. Spider mites are microscopic creatures that suck plant juices, causing the leaves to look speckled or silvery. Control them by misting plants daily to keep the humidity high (spider mites love dryness) and by spraying plants with insecticidal soap.

Removing Snow from Branches

Snowfalls can be tough on trees and shrubs by weighing down the branches. Gently brush off most of the snow with a broom or by hand. Don\'t use a shovel, which can injure the branches. If there\'s ice buildup, it\'s best to let it melt because it\'s easy to break off the brittle branches if you try to remove it.

Keep Off the Grass

If Mother Nature hasn't blessed you with snow cover on your lawn, don't walk on the frozen grass. Walking on frozen grass without the protection of snow can break grass blades and may cause dieback in your lawn that will show up next spring. Put up flagging or stakes in sensitive areas to keep visitors on the path.

Help the Birds

Keep bird feeders stocked. If the feeder remains empty for any length of time, the birds will look elsewhere for their meals and you may not be able to lure them back. Try to keep fresh water available at all times by using a birdbath heater. These plug into an outdoor extension cord and keep the water just above freezing.


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