* Tread carefully when working outdoors or when hiking. The population of disease-transmitting adult deer ticks (also called blacklegged ticks) is at its peak in November. It is the adult female tick that readily attaches itself to humans and other hairy critters for the purpose of engorging on their blood. The ticks normally wait on the branch tips of low growing shrubs for a passing host to brush against the branches before hitching a ride. Ticks may also be found in leaf litter. Therefore, always apply a repellent before working in the landscape or trekking in the woods. Detailed information on protective measures can be found on this University of Rhode Island website.
* Carefully inspect houseplants and evaluate their health. Don’t be afraid to discard plants with severe pest infestations, disease problems, or inability to adapt to the growing environment in your home (i.e. poor lighting, excessively dry air).
* Try dracaena, Chinese evergreen, philodendron or grape ivy in rooms with low light or with only fluorescent light. Stay away from flowering plants since they require considerable light to stay healthy and in bloom.
* Buy a fresh pineapple for your Thanksgiving Day dinner. Okay, so it’s not a traditional accompaniment to turkey, but if you save the top of the fruit, it can be rooted in damp sand. Dry the top first for about 24 hours, dust a little rooting hormone on the cut end and place it in a pot of sand. Keep it in the dark for about 5 weeks until roots form. Then transplant it into a large pot filled with a potting mix high in organic matter. Place the pot near a sunny window and do not overwater – too much water means death to this plant. Feed the plant every 2 to 3 weeks, except during the winter months, with a general purpose fertilizer. In a few years, you may even be able to get the pineapple to bloom by placing it in a paper bag with an over-ripe apple until the flower stalk appears. (Phew! You know the old brain is strained when I have to resort to writing about pineapples, not one of the important farm crops of Berkshire County.)
* Place snow fencing, burlap or other porous material around shrubs that are exposed to strong winter winds. These materials do not have to be wrapped tightly around the plants. They can be set up a few feet from the plants you want to protect, as long as they are on the windward side of the plants.
A rose is a rose is a rose? I don’t think so; certainly not when it comes to winter hardiness. Many of the rugosa roses, as well as old and new shrub type roses are my favorites because of their exceptional hardiness. This means that I don’t have to spend a lot of time and energy preparing them for winter. On the other hand, hybrid teas and many modern bush type roses will not survive our winters without some form of protection. To protect roses, first loosely tie the canes together with twine to prevent them from being whipped about by strong winds. Then mound soil about 10-12 inches high around the base of each plant. Finally a layer of straw or shredded leaves is placed over the soil. A wire cage should be place around the plant and then filled with leaves. Otherwise the leaves may be blown away. If using rose cones, prune back the canes so cones can be placed over the plants. You’ll still need to mound soil around the base of each plant. Place a brick or large stone on top of each cone to keep it in place.