Integrated Pest Management: Tips for December

When planting amaryllis bulbs this winter be sure to check for red sunken spots on the bulb surface. These spots indicate the presence of a fungus called Stagnospora curtisii which can cause leaf scorch. Infected plant tissue turns red, the leaves and stalks may become bent, and in severe cases the stalks dry up without ever producing flowers. A surface sterilization can prevent the infection from moving into leaves and flower stems as they emerge from the bulb. Soak your bulbs in a one percent bleach solution for one hour to contain the infection.

Now that freezing temperatures are upon us, be sure that pesticide containers are in good condition and stored properly. Never store your pesticides in an area that may reach freezing temperatures. If you have pesticides that are old or that you no longer need, call your county government to find out about disposal procedures.

Take advantage of winter downtime to get your gardening tools prepared for spring. Clean and sharpen your hoes for better and easier control of weeds. Sharpen or replace the blades on your pruning implements. Sharper blades give you cleaner cuts, which in the long run will give you healthier plants. This small amount of effort will save you time and energy in the spring.

Want to provide a wonderful service to the trees and woods around you while getting free holiday decorations at the same time? Remove English ivy that is growing up trees and structures. Once English ivy begins to grow upward it matures from the juvenile to the adult state and produces berries. Birds consume the berries and spread the seeds into the woods. Although many people find English ivy attractive, it is very invasive and can choke out native trees and shrubs if it escapes your garden. Not only will you be helping native plants by pruning your ivy, you can also use the foliage to create wonderful holiday decorations.

Give your houseplants a healthy winter treat–give them a shower! Rinsing the leaves thoroughly with tepid water gets rid of accumulated dust that blocks out the weak winter sunlight. It also washes away any mites or other pests that may be using your plant as a home.

Prune your boxwood to prevent the development of Volutella, a fungal disease that causes stem dieback. Remove any branches that are dead or discolored, then cut some of the other small branches back to the main stem. When you’re finished, you should be able to see part of the inner branch structure. This thinning will improve air circulation and sun penetration which helps prevent fungal infection. The trimmings also make a nice addition to your holiday decorations.

If you’re considering a living Christmas tree this year, be sure to plan ahead. Although they may only be six to seven feet high in your home, trees like white pine and Colorado blue spruce can grow to be anywhere from forty to a hundred feet tall. Dig your hole ahead of time so you don’t have to try to dig when the ground is frozen or covered in snow. Make it large enough to accommodate the tree’s root ball and be sure that it’s at least twenty feet away from any other plantings and structures, including telephone and electric wires. Try not to keep your tree inside for more than a week and be sure to keep it cool. Place it near a window and away from any heat sources if possible. Keep the root ball slightly moist and mist the foliage often.

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