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GARDENER’S CHECKLIST: Week of December 8, 2022

There's no rest for the retired, and Ron Kujawski is back with updated versions of articles from the Gardener's Checklist archives. Seeking advice on how to keep your Christmas tree alive and thriving, or how best to prepare your tools, mulch and soil for next year's planting season? Seek no further.

Editor’s Note: Surprise!  Unable to bear the thought of  not hearing from Ron Kujawski regularly, we have decided to reprise seasonally appropriate articles from the Gardener’s Checklist archives, which Ron has agreed to update with fresh new insights and green shoots of inspiration to keep us all planting, pruning, picking and prepping our gardens..

* Reduce the amount of water given to potted house plants and refrain from applying any fertilizers until the plants begin to show new growth in late winter or early spring. Most house plants grow very little during the winter months, so applying fertilizer and excessive amounts of water may result in root damage or weak, spindly growth of plant shoots. Also, keep in mind that flowering house plants generally require more light than foliage house plants. If natural light is lacking, set up the plants beneath grow lights or other artificial lighting.

* Apply leaves, straw, salt marsh hay or pine needles as winter mulch over the perennial border after the ground freezes. The purpose of winter mulches is not to protect plants from the cold but to prevent thawing of soil during the winter months. Freezing/thawing cycles can heave plants out of the ground and also cause tearing of roots.

* Make an inventory of all your garden equipment and tools to see if any need to be repaired or replaced. Have equipment repaired now, rather than during crunch time in spring. Also, with Santa compiling his gift lists, this might be a good time to let your tool needs be known. 

Make an inventory of garden equipment and tools. Need something? Let Santa know.

* Apply mulch to strawberry beds. Use airy type mulches such as straw, which won’t mat down. Don’t be too hasty in removing the mulches next spring. Wait until the plants show some new growth.

* Be careful when cutting branches from evergreens for use in making holiday decorations. Never cut more than a few shoots from any one plant. Always cut back to the main stem or a side shoot, but do not leave a stub when making a cut. 

* Tie together the stems of upright junipers with sturdy twine to keep them from spreading apart under the weight of heavy snow. Do the same for arborvitae. When snow does occur, use a broom to gently remove the snow from these and other evergreens that are prone to breakage from heavy snow loads.

* Keep the reservoir of the tree stand for your cut Christmas tree filled with water at all times. There’s little advantage to using preservatives in the water. Studies have shown that just plain water works fine in maintaining the freshness and turgidity of a cut Christmas tree. The key is not allowing the water reservoir of the stand to become dry.

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