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Winter Checklist.

PLANT

Look for bare-root trees (plus roses and shrubs) at your local nursery. They're typically cheaper and easier to handle than potted or balled and bur-lapped specimens. The trick for success: Never let the roots dry out between purchase and planting. In colder regions, bare-root trees won't be available until the ground thaws.

MAINTAIN

Start winter pruning deciduous shrubs and trees (including fruit-bearing varieties) as soon as leaves drop. Make your cuts from the bottom to the top and from the inside out, removing dead, diseased, and closely parallel branches. Finish the job by pruning for aesthetics and shape.

Protect your deciduous fruit trees with a dormant spray. The oil smothers the eggs of aphids, mites, and scale. Apply a heavy layer on the bare branches, trunk, and ground within the drip line.

Slather pinecones with peanut butter, roll them in birdseed, and hang them in shrubs and trees to provide wildlife with a tasty winter treat.

No matter your climate, reactivate your compost pile unless it is frozen solid. Give the contents a stir by tossing the material onto the ground and then back into the bin. After mixing, water with a hose to dampen the pile.

Even on the chilliest days, the compost will heat up and begin decomposing again.

DECORATE

If you're on the hunt for a U- or pre-cut Christmas tree, consider Turkish fir or Canaan fir. Both have excellent needle retention compared with other conifers. For the first few days indoors, top off the water four times a day--no matter what variety you choose, they're all thirsty. If the water level falls below the tree's base, it will callus and not take up any more liquid, making the tree dry prematurely.

Enjoy the fresh scent of an herb garden by snipping stems of bay, culinary sage, lavender, mint, and rosemary. Add these--plus seed heads of fennel, sweet cicely, and yarrow--to flower arrangements, garlands, swags, and wreaths.

For any conifers growing in your garden, dress them up with seed heads of ornamental onion and sprays of everlasting flowers, such as baby's breath, eriogo-num, fernbush, rabbitbrush, and statice. When cutting the blossoms, leave the stems long enough to poke in between the branches of the tree so no wiring is needed to hold the flowers in place.

GARDEN INDOORS Add to your indoor collection during these colder months, but be aware that some varieties are toxic to children and pets. Do some research before bringing home a new specimen.

If temperatures are forecast to drop below zero, move all houseplants and started seedlings away from windows until things warm up again.

For a pop of color, display pots of tropical gloxinia, an old-fashioned favorite with trumpet-shaped blooms.

Varieties come in rich velvety shades of lavender, maroon, pink, purple, red, and white, some with contrasting throats, edging, or freckles. Choose specimens with lots of unopened buds and cut holes in foil wrappers to allow drainage. Grow in a warm, bright room away from direct sunlight and keep the soil medium moist.

Give flowering winter bulbs a try. Prevent rot by leaving the tops of the bulbs exposed, setting them in a bright location, ensuring good drainage, and watering lightly until the first green growth pushes through. Skip soil and use river rocks for a polished display.

Keep your poinsettias thriving after the holidays by placing them in a spot that gets bright morning daylight and avoids hot afternoon sun. Keep them slightly moist and away from drafts of hot or cold air.

As a colorful alternative to poinsettias, try Christmas cactus. Grow this long-living winter bloomer in bright indirect sunlight. While it's flowering, water and feed weekly with liquid cactus and succulent food.

Show your houseplants some TLC by rinsing dust off the foliage in a lukewarm shower. After leaves dry, check for insects and treat if necessary.
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Title Annotation:GROWING TIPS; winter gardening tips
Publication:Sunset
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2018
Words:640
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