"A New Year's resolution is something that goes in one year and out the other."
~ Author Unknown
The holidays are over, the tree was beautiful. But soon it will be time to take it down and recycle it. However, recycle it how? Here are a few ideas for you this year--and none of them involves the town dump.
If you live near the seashore, check with the town, as some towns will take the tree and place it in the sand dunes to catch the sand when the wind blows or to prevent storm erosion by the waves.
If you have blue hydrangeas, roses or tender perennials, cut the branches from the tree and place them around the plants to help cut the force of the wind on them during the winter. This will also block the sun from drying out the delicate branches. (Like a teepee around the plants.)
For newly planted evergreen ground covers like English Ivy, pachysandra and small junipers lay the branches over them for the winter. It will help to keep foliage green and prevent dehydration.
If you cut the branches into small pieces, you could add them to a compost pile. It will take time but they will break down to beautiful soil.
If you feed the birds during the winter, place the tree near the feeder and it will give them shelter when those big snowstorms arrive. The tree will also give them a place to hide and check out the area for the neighbor's cat before they go to the feeder.
If you do crafts, then cut the branches from the tree and place them in a black plastic trash bag. Put the bag in a sunny location outside and make sure water does not get inside the bag. In just a few weeks, the needles will all fall off. Now you can use them to make those fragrant Balsam pillows that will keep any room fresh smelling like the great outdoors.
Some towns will accept the trees and chip them into mulch, to be used around the town to cover flowerbeds. It takes time to rot but the tree will not fill the landfill site. Never try to burn the tree outside! The tree will be dry and it will almost explode into flames with all the pitch in the needles!
You enjoyed the tree for the Christmas season; now let's put it to good use and help Mother Nature keep the planet healthy.
Growing herbs can be as simple as planting a few seeds in a pot of soil, right now! All you need is a sunny or brightly lit window to grow the secret ingredients for the winter salad or special pasta sauce.
Herbs love the sunlight and the warmer the sun is, the better they love it. Just think of the fragrance of a new pot of basil, chives or parsley will give your kitchen window. Crush the leaves with your fingers, roll the foliage in the palm of your hand and place it into a fresh bowl of salad greens.
Your family will ask you what you did differently to the salad--and believe me it's not the taste of the tomatoes during the winter! Herbs are easy to grow and will do better if you don't put a lot of time with them. Water, fertilize and pick often to encourage new growth. After all, the new growth has more fragrance and taste than older growth.
Your local garden center has now received its new seeds for the spring. So get out of the house, brave the cold and select some herb seeds to grow in your kitchen. All you need are 4 inch plastic pots, fresh potting soil and a little love. Most herbs will germinate in 7 to 14 days if kept warm after planting. I start mine on top of the refrigerator because of the heat on top and because there are no cold drafts up there to cool the soil.
Once they germinate, move them to the windowsill. If your windowsill is warm, you can start them right there! I also cover the pots with Press and Seal plastic until they germinate, as this keeps the moisture and humidity in the soil.
Jiffy products also makes a small windowsill greenhouse, which is a solid container to hold the soil and a clear dome to hold the moisture in. Just transplant to pots when large enough or start seeds in a Jiffy 7 pellets for easy transplanting to pots.
Growing herbs from seed will change your outlook and your relationship with the plants. The flavor you grew did not come from a bottle; it came from your enjoyment of inviting mother nature into your home this winter to grow the plants. So get out the bottle of seasoning you use most and read what it contains for herbs--then grow your own ingredients. Just use a few seeds now and save the rest for the garden in the spring.
The spring seedlings can be started later on during the winter. Those seedlings can be transplanted later right into the ground during May. The seeds you plant now are for use now.
If your time is short and you want instant results, your local greenhouse may have fresh plants--or try the vegetable section of your local supermarket. All you have to remember is to water as needed and feed every 2 weeks and pick often--but take time to smell the foliage. Bon Appétit!
Winter begonias are varieties with fancy leaves and some small flowers. The leaves are breathtaking to look at because the markings and colors on the leaves are marvelous. If you pick off the flowers, the leaves will get bigger and more colorful.
Most begonias are grown as houseplants; they come from tropical regions of the country. There are numerous new varieties that are grown for outdoor use, but they can grow indoors for a short time. Knowing this, you must keep these plants warm indoors, or grow them outside during the summer.
Indoors during the winter, the begonia will thrive if you use grow lights on it, but they are not necessary. These fancy-leaf begonias love high humidity so place them on plastic saucers filled with small stones. Fill the tray every morning--the water will evaporate during the day, helping the plant grow better.
I have found that misting of the foliage will cause spotting of the foliage and may cause powdery mildew; this detracts from their looks. If you use a humidifier in the house keep them close by.
Water plants as needed. Keep moist from May to September and on the dry side during the winter.
Fertilize begonias year round with a fertilizer like Miracle-Gro or Blooming and Rooting Plant Food.
The stems are fleshy, so be sure to use a well drained potting soil. Heavy soils will rot the stems.
Select a location in your home that has no drafts from windows or doors.
Temperature-wise, begonias need to be 65 degrees plus all year long. When the plant is exposed to temperatures below 55 degrees it will be chilled and the leaves will begin to fall from the plant.
Begonias do not like to be moved often around your house. Find a spot for them, then leave them alone and let them stay put. Begonias do not need to be repotted often.
They grow better in smaller pots, so be sure the pot they are in is filled with roots like a spider web before you move them. When repotting, use a man-made soil or a lightweight artificial soil. When you over-pot in large pots, the plants can suffer from overwatering and root rot more easily.
Never push down hard on the newly potted soil or you will squeeze the air out of it. Think soft and fluffy when repotting and the plant will thrive.
Begonias need moderate light during the summer, so place them in a east or west window. During the winter, a south-facing window is best--or place them under grow lights. Fertilizer is necessary during the growing season May to September.
The plant should usually be fertilized every 2 weeks, except during the winter fertilize only once a month. Use a balanced fertilizer like Miracle-Gro or Blooming and Rooting Plant Food.
If yellow spots develop on the leaves remove them and clean the plant.
Do not crowd begonias by putting other plants around them; give them room to grow and space around them for better air circulation.
The best varieties for the winter are the 'Iron Cross' or 'Rex' begonias.
Leaf color ranges from numerous shades of green to silver, pink, red and gold. The leaves can be smooth, ruffled, spotted, and almost puckered. Some of the varieties look like stained glass windows.
The flowers are small and several on hanging stems, pink in color--but the foliage is why you grow the plant.
With a little care, plants should last several years in your home. Moving them outside for the summer and back indoors in the fall is not good for them as they have a problem adjusting to the growing conditions.
If you like African violets, then you will love the gloxinia. At this time of the year, they are exciting to have in any plant window or in the middle of your kitchen table. The plant looks like a "GIANT" African violet--and it is its cousin, after all. The gloxinia plants are grown from seed buy the greenhouse growers for the gray days of winter. Gloxinias are considered annual plants; most of us will enjoy the flowers and then toss them out when the blooms stop. If you are patient and give them a rest period for 3 to 4 months they will come back and reflower--but never like the original bloom when you bought it.
The big buds are one inch or larger, and will burst open one at a time, creating a clump of velvety trumpets in the center of the plant. The individual flowers come on short stems two to three inches long, and when the velvety flowers open the top of the trumpet can be as wide as three inches. The trumpet is one inch wide and deep and filled with the flower's reproductive parts and interesting to look at.
Each flower will last over a week; the plant should bloom over 2 months with several flowers open at all times. When you purchase a plant, select a plant that has many buds and few flowers open so you can enjoy the plant longer. Keeping the plant on the cool side will also keep the flowers in bloom longer but the plant loves the sun best of all. It will do best in a room that has temperatures of 60 to 70 degrees. Water as needed and keep on the moist side at all times. Never wet the leaves or they will have brown spots on them. Always use warm water when watering.
The foliage is beautiful to look at, because the leaves are eight to twelve inches long, six inches wide and, like the African violet, covered with a fine fuzz or hair. The average plant will be fifteen to twenty four inches wide when you purchase it for your plant table. It will grow twelve inches tall or more when in bloom. Placing the plant in a heavy-looking pot will give the leaves a softer look. The ends of the leaves will curve under, showing you the delicate veining in the center of the leaves. The leaves feel soft and delicate to your touch but they are strong and give the plant a lot of character.
The flower color will range from white to red and shades of pink, blue and purple. Some flowers are solid colors, while many of the new varieties are bi-colors. These plants make a great gift for friends, elderly and--yes--even yourself. Keep out of drafty areas or the leaves will be chilled and turn brown. You will like this houseplant.
Tour includes the Wisley Gardens, the Chelsea Flower Show, Tower of London, Roman Baths & Pump Room, Riverford Organic Farm, Garden House, Rosemoor Gardens, Lost Garden of Heligan, Village of Megavissey, Stonehenge, the Wilton House Garden Centre and more.
Click here for details.
Are you looking for a great gift for a gardener (or yourself)? This garden
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- 8 tabbed sections
- 5 garden details sections with pockets for seeds, tags...
- Weather records page
- 6 three year journal pages
- Insect & diseases page - 3 project pages
- 3 annual checklist pages
- Plant wish list page
- 2 large pocket pages
- Sheet of garden labels
- 5 garden detail sheets
- 5 graph paper pages for layouts
- 5 photo pages, each holding four 4x6 photos in landscape or portrait format
Click here to order online.
This Week's Question
If you pop a fruit cultivar called 'Muller Thurgau' in your mouth, what did you just eat?
This Week's Prize:
Wilt-Pruf®...The Safe Way To Reduce Moisture Loss When Plants Are Under Water Stress due to:
- winter kill
- transplant shock
Click here for more information about Wilt-Pruf.
Last Week's Question
According to an old English rhyme, the thickness of what vegetable skin can help predict a rough winter?
Last Week's Winner:
Last Week's Answer:
"Onion skins very thin,
Mild winter coming in.
Onion skins very tough,
Coming winter very rough."
Last Week's Prize:
One winner per question - we choose winners from the list of those who answer correctly. Winners must be newsletter subscribers. We'll ship you your prize, so be sure to put your address in the form in case you win!
What You'll Need:
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 stalks celery, chopped
- 3 carrots, chopped
- 4 tablespoons flour
- 4 cups chicken or turkey stock
- 2 potatoes, peeled and diced
- 2 cups shredded turkey
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- 1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
- 1 prepared pie crust
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
Step by Step:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Melt butter in saucepan and cook chopped onion until tender.
- Stir in celery and carrots and cook for 2 minutes.
- Stir in flour and cook for 2 minutes.
- Add chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Add potatoes and simmer until tender.
- Stir in turkey, parsley and peas.
- Pour mixture into casserole.
- Top with pie crust and brush with egg.
- Bake for 30 minutes until crust is golden.