If you’re someone who loves to try your hand at growing things, you know that a gardener’s work is never finished. Not that that’s a bad thing—anyone who has a hobby they enjoy is never really finished with it! In this “off season,” however, gardening takes a back seat to the busyness and joy of the holidays, and besides, the cold, dark days prevent very much outdoor activity. If you’re looking for something to do to keep your green thumb happy, here are a couple of plant-related activities you can enjoy this month.
First, Christmas decorating may have you hanging a wreath on your front door, draping garland, or filling pots with fresh greens for the holidays. Although our outdoor air this time of year can be decidedly moist, if the cold northeast wind blows (or if you use fresh greens indoors), they can quickly dry out.
Periodically wetting your greens with a squirt bottle or hose nozzle is effective in keeping them fresh, but you can also use an anti-transpirant like Bonide Wilt Stop to keep cut greens from losing moisture. Wilt Stop and similar products are made of pine resin, which locks in moisture and prevents a plant’s foliage from releasing moisture. Simply spray your greens with the product to create a thin, waxy coating and enjoy fresh greens for an extended season without extra work.
Secondly, winter is a time when many gardeners turn their energies to caring for indoor plants, whether a seasonal poinsettia, houseplants they keep year-round, or tender plants moved in from outdoors for the winter. If you have plants that you’ve moved indoors for winter—some of the most common in our area being succulents and dwarf citrus trees—it’s important to check them for insects to prevent population explosions in the relative warmth and comfort of your home.
For problems with aphids, thrips, or whiteflies on succulents or other houseplants, move your pots into the garage and spray with an insecticide to kill existing insects, then move plants back inside after the spray has dried. Follow up with Bayer Insect Spikes inserted into the soil of your pots to prevent new infestations for up to 8 weeks. These spikes are safe to use on anything non-edible, and since there’s no spraying involved, they’re the best option for long-term treatment of plants too heavy or inconvenient to easily move outdoors for spraying.
Another increasingly-common plant many people have enjoyed growing in pots around here is citrus, particularly Meyer lemons. At first glance, you may be surprised to see a friend growing a citrus tree on their patio during the summer. Admittedly, citrus trees aren’t hardy outdoors year-round in the Pacific Northwest, but they make great houseplants for winter, not to mention a great conversation piece!
If you have a citrus tree on your deck or patio for the summer months, it’s important to bring it indoors for the colder winter weather. A light frost won’t hurt citrus, but for any temperatures below 30 degrees F, I bring my Meyer lemon indoors. Be sure when moving any plants indoors that you acclimate them gradually, with a day or two in a garage or cool room before coming into the warmth of your home. Once acclimated, keep citrus in a south- or west-facing window with plenty of direct sunlight. Citrus can tolerate somewhat dry conditions, but water once the soil feels dry to the touch—and continue to feed through winter with citrus fertilizer for increased fruit yields and overall plant health.
This Christmas season, may you be blessed with the joy of celebrating the Savior’s birth!