* Repurpose your Christmas tree by setting it up in the backyard and attaching bird feeders to the branches. Another option is to cut off the branches and place them over perennial beds as mulch. If these options are not appealing, take advantage of the Christmas tree recycling program organized by the Great Barrington Boy Scout Troop 23 this Saturday, January 8, and next Saturday, January 15. For more information, go to: https://wardsnursery.com/event/christmas-tree-recycling/
* Move house plants that are looking a little leggy as near to a sunny window as possible. With the short days and low intensity of indoor lighting, even house plants that prefer low light conditions will rejoice in the glow of brighter light during the winter. For those plants which have gotten a bit leggy, prune back elongated stems to lateral branches.
* Prolong the show of poinsettias by continuing to water the plants whenever the soil feels dry. Be careful not to overwater, that is, keeping the soil constantly soggy. Keeping the plants in bright light at warm temperatures will help sustain happy memories of the past holiday season.
* Deadhead the spent flowers of African violets and other houseplants now in bloom. Such grooming not only enhances the appearance of the plants but also helps sustain continued flowering.
* Prune out the dead wood; no, not the relative who came to visit and never went home. This dead wood is the dead branch or branches in ornamental trees and shrubs. Flowering shrubs that bloom on new wood may also be pruned now. It’s still too early to prune fruit trees but I wouldn’t hesitate to get started on pruning grape vines. Grapes need heavy pruning every year to sustain good fruit production.
On my to-do list this week is: Start seeds of herbs such as parsley and basil. It is early but so what. The price of fresh herbs in grocery stores is challenging that of gold. My strategy for starting herbs now is a little different from starting plants for transplanting to the garden in spring. All I want are some snippets – not to be confused with short pieces of classical music – for flavoring sauces and other culinary creations. I will sow a large number of seeds of each herb in large diameter but shallow pots. These will be placed under LED lights in the basement. Rather than waiting for development of large plants, I start snipping the herbs when the seedlings are only a few inches tall. With so many little seedlings started, I usually have enough to meet our winter needs. All herbs like very bright light but while basil likes warm temperatures, parsley prefers it cool. To speed the germination of the normally slow sprouting parsley (3-6 weeks), soak the seeds overnight. This removes much of a natural chemical that inhibits seed germination.