University of Vermont Extension
Department of Plant and Soil Science
WATCHING FOR SPIDER MITES AND OTHER DECEMBER
Protecting your plants from snowblowers, watching for spider mites on
houseplants, and cutting back geraniums, are some of the gardening tips
for this month.
Charlie Nardozzi, Senior Horticulturist
National Gardening Association, and
Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont
When you are clearing your driveway with a snowblower this winter,
direct the snow away from plants. Otherwise, the blowing ice crystals
may damage the tender bark of young trees and shrubs. Or,
alternatively, protect plants with a wrapping of burlap.
If Mother Nature hasn't blessed you with snow cover on your lawn, don't
walk on the frozen grass. Walking on frozen grass without the
protection of snow can break grass blades and may cause dieback in your
lawn that will show up next spring. Put up flagging or stakes in
sensitive areas to keep visitors on the path.
Many houseplants, including palms and cyclamen, are attacked by spider
mites this time of year. They love the dry and warm conditions
indoors. To scout for these pests, mist the plants lightly. If
are present, the water droplets will cling to the mites' fine webbing.
Spider mites are microscopic creatures that suck plant juices, causing
the leaves to look speckled or silvery.
Control spider mites by misting plants daily to keep the humidity high,
or by using a humidifier. You may give plants a bath in “mild”
water. Or you may spray plants with insecticidal soap or other
products. Just make sure “mites” are on the label, as they are
true insects and so insecticides may not affect them. Even if
“safe” sprays, make sure you follow all label directions for use
Keep birdfeeders and suet feeders stocked. If a feeder remains empty
for any length of time, the birds will look elsewhere for their meals
and you may not be able to lure them back.
If you brought in your annual geranium plants this fall and are growing
them indoors this winter, chances are they've gotten very leggy by now.
Cut back the plants to about 1 foot tall. They will resprout and grow
bushier in the longer days of late winter.
Other gardening tips for this month include cutting your own holiday
tree at a local farm (makes for a great weekend outing), buying some
wreaths or roping made locally from evergreens, buying flowering
holiday plants, and thinking of garden gifts this holiday season.
Return to Perry's