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GARDENER’S CHECKLIST: Week of November 24, 2022

This week, Ron leaves us with a cornucopia of tips to keep our homes green and lush throughout the winter—fresh chives for your salad in January, plump leaves on your houseplants in February, and, just around the corner, a blooming, floral surprise for your holiday table.

Editor’s Note: This week’s edition of Gardener’s Checklist will be its last. Ron Kujawski is retiring after 43 years of writing this column. Although Ron is irreplaceable, our hope of finding a successor springs as eternally as the blossoms he’s helped us nurture and the crops he’s so expertly advised us in tending.  Ron Kujawski, we give you our thanks.

* Cut down the browned stems on those perennials that only recently surrendered to freezing temperatures. Perennials such as monkshood and some anemones are late-season bloomers and are among the last to turn brown in fall. Many are also late to send up shoots in spring. For that reason, leave about one inch of stem above ground so that you can easily locate the plants in spring when working in the flower garden.

* Begin compiling a list of seeds and plants for next year’s garden. I received my first seed catalogs earlier this week. Though I’m not ready to make purchases just yet, it did prompt me to begin my shopping list. Besides, it is fun poring through catalogs and dreaming of gardens yet to be.

Even if not ordering from particular seed companies, their catalogs make good references when compiling a shopping list for next year’s gardens.

* Now that the ground is frozen, or at least the top few inches, locate some pine boughs for use in covering perennial borders. The purpose of this winter mulch is to keep the ground frozen during periods of thaw.

* Should the soil thaw enough to dig, pot up a clump of chives. Bring the pot indoors, cut back the floppy leaves, and water. Soon new leaves should appear and be ready to snip for addition to dips, soups, salads, and atop baked potatoes. If the taste of chives is not appealing, then hang bundles of snipped leaves around the house to ward off evil spirits. It supposedly worked for ancient civilizations and it has worked for me, except when my in-laws arrived.

* Pay attention to the humidity needs of houseplants, both now and during the winter months. Most home heating systems leave the indoor atmosphere very dry, particularly forced air and wood stoves. That explains why many houseplants may be dropping their leaves. Combat low humidity by grouping plants together and placing them on trays filled with pebbles and water. The pebbles keep the pots from sitting directly in water (a potential cause of root rot) and increase the surface area for evaporation of moisture into the air. 

Meet the humidity needs of houseplants by placing plants on trays filled with pebbles and water.


A question I often get at this time of year is, “Why is my Christmas cactus blooming now?” 

The answer is simple: “It’s blooming because it is a Thanksgiving cactus and not a Christmas cactus!”  “Huh?”

While Christmas cactus and Thanksgiving cactus are closely related, they are two distinct species with different bloom times. Besides flowering time, the two can be easily distinguished by examining the flat leaf-like segments making up the stem. The segments on Thanksgiving cacti have pointed lobes at the edges, while those of Christmas cacti have rounded lobes.

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. It seems there are far fewer pressures than other holidays. Yes, there is lots of food to prepare, but that is a pleasant task in which many participate. It is a family gathering, and there is so much chattering, reminiscing, and general good will.

It is also a time to live up to the name of the holiday. This is best done by examining its two components, that is, ‘thanks’ and ‘giving.’

And so: 

I give thanks for my family and friends.

I give thanks for the joy I find in the natural world, especially in the beauty of the Berkshires.

I give thanks for having the space and time to grow plants, both ornamental and food.

I give thanks for the abundance of food that we grow, harvest, and preserve.

I give thanks to the many friends and to the Checklist readers who have been so willing to share their gardening experiences and knowledge.

I give thanks to Marcie Setlow and her crew at The Edge for keeping us all informed and engaged in Berkshire happenings.

Have a very happy Thanksgiving!


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It seems this week has all the important gardening tasks scheduled for early morning.


A good editor knows what to excise, and what to enhance. With that in mind, I grabbed my chainsaw, and removed a magnolia.


Be lazy and take time to enjoy the flowers and the wildlife they support.

The Edge Is Free To Read.

But Not To Produce.