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Protecting spring bulbs, Christmas tree care

Thursday - 12/16/2010, 8:17pm  ET

Baby It's Cold Outside! You Need to Protect your Spring bulbs, Garlic & Pansies

The heck with the holidays — our top story today is this [bad word] cold weather! Although it's predicted to reach a blistering 36 Saturday, the nights have all been well below freezing, with no global warming in sight. (Thank you, Mr. Al Gore, for making it 'climate change' instead!)

Although we don't have to do it most years, I advise everyone with garlic, Spring bulbs or pansies in the ground to protect them with a nice natural, non-wood mulch.

Pansies prefer the springy protection of whole evergreen boughs laid overtop them. Keep the boughs on top during hard times, and remove them to expose the pansies during good times. (Remember good times? Sun? Warmth?!)

Spring bulbs and garlic do best under a cover of one to two inches of shredded fall leaves. If you didn't prepare and hoard those leaves like I warned ya to, use evergreen boughs or straw. Don't use wood or bark mulch; those popular but nasty mulches smother plants and breed disease.

Christmas Trees Need EXTRA Hydration This Year

This should be a big weekend for Christmas tree buyers who've been waiting for The Ice Age to recede. No, it's not going to warm up—we're just out of time.

If you don't get your tree cut fresh for you at a tree farm (click here for a page that has lists of local tree farms), be sure to cut another inch or two off the bottom of the trunk when you get it home and then let the freshly cut trunk sit in a big container of water before you set it up.

Warning — it's been so cold that any tree could be a little on the dry side, so that early hydration is going to be extra important this year. Keep the tree in that container with you adding water as needed until six or so hours go by without a noticeable drop in the water level. I'm predicting that gallons will be sucked up as you hydrate your way to a truly safe, needle-holding, happy healthy tree.

Melt Ice, Not Your Plants!

Our recent run of freezing cold weather necessitates that I drop a plant-safe ice melting tip into this week's mix. Yes, rock salt is cheap. It's also death to lawns, shrubs, trees and any other plants it gets to salinate. And it wreaks havoc on cars, bridges, roads and our waterways. Instead, seek out one of the alternative ice melt products, like Potassium chloride, Magnesium chloride and/or Calcium chloride. Reject products whose ingredient list includes the words sodium chloride or the initials NaCl—those are just synonyms for plant-killing rock salt. (Read labels carefully—they often try to disguise rock salt as something else.)

The alternatives may seem more expensive, but you use so much less that it pretty much evens out in the end. And get them now—before the stores run out!

Rosemary Christmas Tree Care

Lori in Hume, VA just got one of those cute little Rosemary Christmas trees for the holidays. "I'll plant it in my garden when the temps are appropriate," she writes, "but what kind of potting mix should I use for it whilst indoors? The tag says sandy, well-drained soil, but I can't seem to find that at the garden store."

No, that's the outdoor soil they're talking about Lori; and with the winter we been having it probably won't be safe For you to employ that option until March. Right now, that tree needs a pot at least twice as big as its current little bitty one, with the bottom and sides filled in with a natural, chemical-free potting mix. Also known as ‘professional mix' and ‘soil-free mix', these bagged products are light, loose and perfect for root bound plants like your rosemary. After that repotting, you'll only have to water it once a week—as opposed to once a day in its current tight quarters.

Christmas Tip--for Men Only, Please

May I ask any ladies stop reading now? This is the final bit of the week—no more gardening advice—and I have to have a little talk with just the guys out there; you know, to make sure they don't get you a toaster or something this year. OK? Thank you.

Pssst---guys; are they gone? Here's the deal: If women bring ivy into the house for the holidays, they will rule that roost for the following year. But if YOU bring holly into the house first, you will really be in charge of the household (instead of just thinking you are). Just clip a little branch off the bottom of a holly bush and bring it inside. If an ivy houseplant has been inside all year, it doesn't count—just plants specifically brought inside in December. Got it?

Oh, and tell her I yelled at you and warned you not to get her a new vacuum cleaner or appliance if she asks…

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