MIDDLETOWN, NJ - With the coming of December, wonderful pictures of holiday happenings enter our minds—the poinsettias that now appear in a variety of colors thanks to hybridizing; beautifully healthy evergreen trees now decorated with the predominance of red and green, silver and gold, as they become a symbol of Christmas.  The blue, white and silver colors of Chanukah prevail in the candles lit in menorahs that bring their light to the holiday season and stand as a happening in ancient times that is remembered.  The cultural holiday of Kwanzaa, when a seven-pronged candleholder of red, green and one black candle in the center is lit to signify a time of ingathering of the people to reaffirm the bonds between them, bringing forth memories of times past.

Yes, December is a month where wonderful things occur in the family setting.  It is also a time of lower temperatures, snow and ice, and garden-related chores to tackle both inside your home and outside.  Let’s just look at some tips that will hopefully increase the festive mood of this time of the year for you and your family.

If fresh evergreens are to enhance the festive mood of your home,  you need to know how to choose your holiday tree.  It must have firm needles that don’t fall from branches when handling the tree.  Individual needles should bend rather than snap if you pinch them between your fingers. Also, inspect the stump.  It should be moist and may have some sticky sap on it.  When you get the tree home, cut two inches off the base of the trunk and plunge it into a bucket of water.  Trees can absorb one gallon of water in the first 24 hours, so check the water level in your tree stand twice a day for the first week. Usually trees can drink roughly 1 quart of water for every inch of trunk diameter. 

When the holidays end, recycle your tree by cutting off its branches and using them as insulation when placed over your perennials.  In the spring, chip or shred those branches to create mulch and cut the trunk for firewood. Let the firewood season this year and burn it next winter.

When decorating indoors, avoid placing fresh evergreens on wood surfaces as sap from branches can damage the finish.  Place greenery on parchment, colorful felt or a fabric.

If you are purchasing poinsettias, request a plastic or paper sleeve be placed around them as protection against cold temperatures (temperatures less than 50 degrees F will damage most houseplants). Please don’t let your new purchases sit in a cold car while you shop some more.  When you get home, remove the covers and allow the water in the plants to drain.  Otherwise you may have some form of root rot.  Hopefully, taking a few precautions, your poinsettia will be able to grace your home for the entire winter season.

Finally, here are some snow and ice tips.  If it snows, where possible, shovel or blow snow evenly across your planting bed and around foundation plantings. Avoid heaping roadside snow (full of road salt) on planting areas.  When ice forms on tree and shrub branches, don’t try to break the ice off as you may break off the entire branch in the process.  Let ice melt naturally.

Be aware that many ice-melting products contain chloride (salt) and that calcium chloride-based products damage plants more than potassium-based choices.  Also, pet-friendly ice melt is also plant-friendly. It won’t harm your plants.

Join Us in January

As Garden Club R.F.D. moves on into the New Year, their January 16th meeting at The Little Red Schoolhouse will feature a free program by Master Gardener Irene Wanat.  The focus will be on choosing the right plant for all types of shady garden conditions.  She teaches classes at Deep Cut Gardens as well as at Rutgers where master gardener interns attend as part of their curriculum. Irene has been a Master Gardener for over 26 years.

The Garden Club R.F.D. invites you to join them on January 16th at 10:30am, meet everyone and learn more about the club that meets on the third Tuesday of the month at The Little Red Schoolhouse at 951 Middletown Lincroft Road in Middletown.  Please call Nancy Canade at (973)-452-4846 for further information about the club and to let us know that you are coming.

This Club is a member of the Garden Club of New Jersey and the Central Atlantic Region of the National Garden Clubs, Inc.  Check us out on Facebook.