The people's voice of reason

Potpourri for December

December is always a busy month being with friends and family, cooking, buying and wrapping gifts, trimming the tree, decorating the home...and finally, eating all the treats that come in for the season. This is why we have New Year's resolutions-- to purge the extra calories from the Holidays, so eat, drink and be merry.

I was at a presentation recently where lecturer shared a delightful idea for teaching gardening techniques to some very young grandchildren ages three and four, visiting during the Christmas season. She took them out into her flower beds and had them dig about 6 holes. She then had them "plant" a piece of striped peppermint candy in each of the holes. The candy was then covered with dirt, and the children took the watering can and watered the plantings. A few days later when the children were out, she went to the garden, dug up the candy and stuck large peppermint sticks over the holes. And when the children returned, they were just amazed how well there "peppermints" grew. Use your imagination as to how to protect the candy from the dirt. I would just rinse it off like to do carrots and other vegetables. Your call.

The month of December does not bring the weeding, planting, and sowing of seed we see in other months, but we do have other garden chores to get done. One of the best tasks we can perform for our garden is spraying with a dormant spray after a hard freeze. Thus the term, dormant spraying. I hate to keep repeating myself year after year, but there are some who have not gotten the message. If you do not want white flies swarming in spring and summer, ruining gardenias, cannas, and other flowers, we must to spray our trees, shrubs and plants with a dormant winter oil. I use the brand Volk Oil, but there are others readily available in Montgomery and surrounding garden centers and nurseries. The purpose of the oil is to smother the eggs which the white fly has lain under the leaves of these plants. Volk Oil also kills other insect eggs such as flea, roach, tick and other unwanted pests. In our area we do not have a wide window of opportunity, perhaps only a couple of months of really cold weather, to accomplish this task.. Now is the time to purchase the oil, plus a hose end sprayer which can spray up to 30 feet in order to cover under magnolia tree leaves and other taller trees. Depending on your yard, you will probably make several applications to get the job done. Be prepared early, so when the hard freeze occurs, you will not be scrambling to make the purchases. If you own a hose end sprayer, this would be a good time to test out your equipment. Sometimes if the sprayer sits up, the siphon tube gets clogged, so test it. I use food coloring in the bottom of the jar or something like blue windex. When the water from the hose mixes with it, a pale colored water is sprayed out. Now you know your sprayer works.

PLANT OF THE MONTH--POINSETTIA (Euphorbia pulcherrima)

This plant is closely associated with the Christmas season because of its traditional red and green leaves, which are actually, bracts and not the flowers. The flowers are the small yellow clusters in the center of the bracts. The plant is native to Mexico and is a member of the diverse spurge family. If given the proper treatment, they will last long after the ho ho ho's are no longer heard. Remember they hate the cold, even for a few minutes. The following are suggestions to keep the poinsettia healthy throughout the season:

1. Need indirect light about 6 hours per day.

2. High temps will shorten its life. Keep temperatures around 60-70.

3. Water only when soil is dry to the touch. If it is encased in foil, puncture the bottom for drainage.

4. Fertilize with a liquid fertilizer at least once during the Holidays.

5. Keep away from outside doors which may allow cold air to rush

in on the plants.



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