Sally Mullins

It is getting colder every day, and the wind is getting stronger. I have to say it’s time to put the protection around your tender shrubs and trees.

No more procrastinating, it needs done now.

It’s not too late to kill the moss on your sidewalk and simply pouring full strength white vinegar on it will do the job. When low temps arrive, moss can freeze and make your walkway very slippery, so taking care of it before that happens is a must.

For that very same reason, it is necessary to keep slippery leaves off the walk and anywhere you walk in your driveway.

A hunter recently asked if poison ivy was still a threat in winter and the answer is a big yes. It may look dead, but those oils are still very viable, so use as much care now as you would in summer.

This is also true if you are choosing a Christmas tree out in the woods. Bear in mind that the oil can get on the branches also, so I would advise against cutting any tree with poison ivy vines on it.

And when you’re on the lot picking out just the right tree, keep in mind the size of your tree holder. If you place a tree with a very thin trunk in the large opening of your tree holder, it may be difficult to keep it upright and a tree with a wide trunk will take a lot of trimming.

So size is important. It is also important to know how large of a tree it can handle. If you’re not happy with the tree stand you picked up at a yard sale, now is the time to get a new one. One that holds a good deal of water will be very beneficial throughout the season and a tree stand that makes it simple to level the tree will make setting it up so much easier.

Using a watering can with a long nose will make watering easier, so pick one up if you don’t have one. It will come in handy next summer.

We always found trees with short needles, like Fraser firs were easier to decorate. They have a bit more space between branches and they’ll hold heavier ornaments.

Out in the lot, the needles should be shiny and green, not brown, and should never fall off when you shake the branch.

I would suggest putting the tree in the tree holder outdoors and making sure it’s straight. It will also be easier to trim 2 inches off the bottom (so the water is more easily taken up by the tree) and to make the trunk fit in the holder.

Trimming the top for the angel and getting rid of any straggling branches outside will keep unwanted evergreen needles off of your carpet.

And it is always good to have a helper. Be sure to use any branches or trimmings for decorations around the house.

After you get the tree set up, the most important thing to remember is to always keep it well watered with warm water, just as you use for your houseplants.

Spraying some Wilt-Pruf on your tree and any other cut evergreens will increase their life by a considerable length of time. It is well worth the price as it will inhibit the drying out process.

When you’re buying a poinsettia, turn it around for a view from every side. Bracts should be full of color with no green on the edges. Soil should be damp but not sopping wet.

Choosing the color and pattern may well be the most difficult part. My favorite is the Monet series with pink strewn through the bracts like one of Monet’s paintings.

Don’t buy plants with paper sides still covering them, you cannot really tell what you’re getting. That being said, they do need covered when you take them out in the weather.

A Christmas cactus makes a nice thank you gift, either for dinner or some other nice gesture. Although, you really don’t need a reason to just be nice and brighten someone’s day.

Any house plants you buy need protection from the cold, even just from the store to your car and into the house.

When you’re unpacking Christmas decorations, use the empty ornament box for any knickknacks that need put out of the way for the holidays.

That way, when you’re packing up in January, you have everything right there to put back on the mantle and bookshelves and plus a box for the decorations you took down.

Questions can be left at the Hampshire Review office or emailed to me at Please put “gardening” in the subject box and leave a phone number so I can get back to you if necessary. 

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