By David Nagel and Lelia Kelly
Extension Horticulture Specialists
Distributed by Lisa Stewart, Webster County Director
Yes, that is exactly what I said. It is perfectly OK as long as the gift wrap is around a potted plant. Not OK and definitely naughty, otherwise.
Poking a few holes in the decorative foil or wrapping of gift plants such as poinsettias, Norfolk Island pines, kalanchoe or Christmas cactus will keep the soil draining freely and help prevent overwatering.
Overwatering, as we all know, is the No. 1 killer of houseplants. Better yet, take that wrapping completely off and put the pot inside a lined basket or cachepot that has a layer of stones (washed gravel from the driveway) in the bottom to raise the pot above any standing water.
Speckled, multicolored blooms in shades of maroon and white (Go Dogs!), pink, peach, even yellow selections of poinsettias are catching on fast. Regardless of the color you prefer, choose a fresh plant that will last through the holidays.
Buds in the center of the “bloom” should be small and green. They will eventually open into little yellow flowers. If these are dropping off, the plant is past its prime. The bracts or “petals” should be fully colored without too much green, and the plant should have strong stems and green leaves.
Christmas Tree Tips
If you buy a cut tree, here are a few quick tests for freshness. Bend the needles back to see how pliable they are. Hold the tree by the trunk, and give it a firm shake to see if it retains its needles. Once you’ve got the tree home, cut at least 2 inches off the base to help with water movement up the trunk. When it’s in the stand, check the water level daily, and never let it fall below the base of the trunk.
The trend this year for those who want to be “green” is to buy a living potted tree that can be planted out in the yard after the holidays. Shop for these at your favorite nursery or garden center. While the containerized tree is indoors being a Christmas tree, definitely try to situate it away from heat sources, in an area of adequate light, and keep it watered. After the holidays plant it outside.
Gardeners who don’t want to expose themselves to cold temperatures can still grow vegetables during the winter. Many container-sized vegetable plants can be grown in the light coming through the window.
After the Christmas tree has been taken down, replace it with a pot or two and plant something colorful like red and green lettuce or red mustard. Container-sized peppers are an attractive green plant that will eventually add color.
Container-sized tomatoes like Elfin or Tumbling Tom can be grown, but the plants are not very attractive until the fruit start to grow.
The same can be said for eggplant like Little Prince. Remember to protect the floor from water.
Outdoors, several vegetables do well in freezing temperatures. Start cabbage, collard, kale, Brussels sprouts indoors, then move them outside for a week before planting in the garden. Turnips, mustards, cauliflower and broccoli are more risky during winter since they can be damaged at temperatures as high as 28, but the other crops do well unless the temperatures drop into the teens.
At long last there is another pepper that looks like pepperoncini. Golden Greek pepper seed is available from several sources. Pepperoncini is the wrinkled, light-green pepper familiar to most of us as the one that comes with pizza from one of the large chain stores.
Autumn leaves should be removed by now. Try to keep off the grass, particularly when it is frozen. The dead grass acts as insulation to keep the soil temperature moderated, Crushing the brown grass destroys the insulating properties as well as opening holes in the grass cover for cool-season weeds to grow..
Try to restrain your pruning urge until January. Although many deciduous trees appear dormant, some of them are still active.