Playing in the dirt: Protect the plants and 'feed' the tree


Sharon Carrigan



You may recall that I mentioned at this time last year that there are 400-plus varieties of holly. But would you believe it's hard to find some when you want some? I just drove around southside Columbus looking for some for someone to share with me. Yes, I finally found some on The W campus. (I promise no one will ever notice them missing!) It is the perfect floral/greenery to decorate with during this season. Some other good decorating plants are nandinas and magnolia leaves.  


Here's a challenge: What other plants do you know that are used for decorating at Christmas? If you aren't sure, or just plain don't know, let the Lowndes County Master Gardener classes enlighten you. They will begin Feb. 19 and go through March 5, every Tuesday and Thursday 1-5 p.m. at the Extension Office at 485 Tom Rose Road, near the junction of Highway 45 South and Old Highway 82. 


Of course, everyone knows about poinsettias, but I don't suggest you let someone share theirs with you; they cost money. Now you can grow your own, but if you are a beginner these might be a flower to put on the back burner until you have further experience. They are labor intensive and particular about growing conditions.  


There is less to do in the garden this month, but less does not equal nothing, so here are your tips for December: 




This month 


  • Protect movable plants from sudden changes in temperature by bringing them indoors. Protect tender outdoor plants by placing layers of mulch, or pine straw, to a depth of 6-8 inches. Water plants well if there is warning before a frost. Otherwise, water as the plants begin to thaw. 


  • Toward the end of the month plant tulips and hyacinth that have been in the fridge for six weeks. This is also a good time to move Japanese magnolias or plant many types of bare root trees: fruit, nut or citrus. (Be careful of these last; many are not cold hardy.)  


  • Plant dormant shrubs: azalea, camellia, nandinas, wax ligustrum, Indian hawthorn, pyracantha, mock orange, hydrangea, flowering quince and spirea. Herbs for a sunny window: tarragon, chives, oregano, marjoram and rosemary. 


  • Prune fruit trees and shade trees to remove damaged wood. Cut off tops of brown perennials; leave roots in the soil. Do not prune spring flowering shrubs. Ferns will come back from the ground; cut back brown fronds. Cut mistletoe out of trees. 


  • Feed indoor houseplants twice during the winter months. 


  • To maintain a live Christmas tree in good condition, mix in a 2-liter bottle: 8 ounces non-diet soda, 2 ounces vinegar and 1 ounce mouthwash. Fill the rest of the bottle with water. Keep the base of the tree in this solution. After Christmas, have your tree turned into mulch.  


    Some Christmas decorations are poisonous to people and pets: Keep boxwood, holly, mistletoe and Jerusalem cherry high up and out of reach. 


    Now, put on a jacket and go play in the dirt. 


    Sharon Carrigan of Columbus shares monthly gardening tips on behalf of the Lowndes County Master Gardeners.



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