David Robson Extension Educator, Springfield Extension Center, University of Illinois
Yard & Garden
Gardening never ends
Holiday need-to-know hints, myths and gifts
Here it is again – the end of the gardening year and the holiday season.
True gardeners know that gardening never ends. We may concentrate on a different location (indoors) and with different plants, but we do something, even if it’s something as mundane as watching HGTV or looking through the piles of gardening magazines and catalogs we’ve put off for the year.
But the holidays push some of the gardening thoughts to the dark recesses of the brain where the cobwebs are a little thicker. But only for a month. Or two. Or three.
December is the month to think about all the holiday plants such as trudging through the tree lots to find that perfect Frasier or Balsam fir, or fawning over poinsettias found at just about any retail outlet, possibly even the corner gas station.
Of course, the holidays let us go all out with decorating with plants, realizing full well that the plants may hang around into the new year, but start to look a little worse for the wear.
So, in an effort to minimize the need to read a whole bunch of sentences and paragraphs, we’ll go with bullet-points for some need-to-know tidbits to get you through the “holidaze.”
• Get the freshest tree possible. Now, also do it legally. Don’t cut someone else’s prized specimen in their yard. You will surely get coal in your stockings if you do that. Either visit a cut-your-own tree farm, or get the specimens as they seem to fall off the truck at the tree lot. Fresh trees last longer and keep their needles on the plant, reducing the fire hazard.
• Of course, use only approved lights on the tree. Those big honking lights from the 1950s and 1960s should be avoided as they generate too much heat. If you can’t keep your fingers on the light bulb for a minute without burning, you are using the wrong type. Turn the lights off when leaving the house and not at night.
• Make sure there is water in the reservoir at all times. Keep Fido from lapping it dry. As long as the container is holding water, the tree is probably sucking it up; though the longer the tree is indoors, the less water it takes up. The colder you keep the room, the less the tree dries out and the longer it lasts. At 40 degrees, the tree will last months, though you might not.
• Poinsettias are NOT poisonous. There are rumors of some child in the Hawaiian Islands dying from eating a plant back in the early 1900s. However, there are no documented cases.
On the other hand, this is not a food crop plant. You shouldn’t be tearing off the leaves and putting them in your salad. That’s not their intended purpose. If Fido eats some and barfs, more than likely he’ll not eat them again.
Mistletoe is classified as poisonous. It can cause some serious physical health problems. Of course, the biggest problem is that it can end up with a 50-year life sentence if you get caught under it. Sometimes it might be wise to turn the other cheek quickly.
• Don’t forget gardening gifts as presents or hostess gifts. A great pair of leather garden gloves, sturdy gardening pruners, and even foam kneepads make wonderful presents if you are just at wits end. You almost can’t have enough pairs of gloves nor hand pruners.
There are some great gardening magazines such as Fine Gardening and the companion Container Gardening, Horticulture, and Garden Design that also can whet the gardener’s appetite throughout the season. Even a membership to a local botanical garden (including the Chicago Botanic Garden and Missouri Botanical Garden) indicates some thought.
And a gift certificate to a favorite garden center or nursery would always be welcomed, though probably not as much as a gift certificate that says you will do the mowing, weeding and digging for a year.
David Robson is an Extension Educator, Horticulture, at the Springfield Extension Center, University of Illinois Extension, P.O. Box 8199, Springfield, IL 62791. Telephone: 217-782-6515.
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