Leonard Perry, UVM Horticulturist
and Charlie Nardozzi, Garden Consultant
Cleaning bird feeders, growing Swedish ivy, and brushing snow from shrubs are some of the gardening activities for this month.
Birds deserve clean food surfaces as much as we do. Every few weeks bring the feeders inside and wash them with soap and water into which a little bleach has been added (1 part bleach to 9 parts water). Rinse thoroughly. If you have a heated bird bath, keep it scrubbed and cleaned regularly as well. I keep an old brush just for this purpose, whenever I refill the bath.
When tree and shrub branches bend under the weight of a new
snowfall, use a broom to gently brush off the snow. Don't try to
remove ice or you might break the branch. It's possible to save a
branch that partially splits from the main trunk if you tie it in
place and use long screws (coming from each direction, if
necessary) to secure it. If done right away, the tree may callous
over the wound and heal itself next season, and not split further.
Peperomia are highly decorative houseplants that are easy to
grow, members of the pepper family as you might guess from the
name. Give them bright indirect light, donít overwater, and donít
let them get much below 60 degrees (F) for best growth. The
blunt-leaved species is upright, and has rounded thick, waxy
leaves on thick stems. Emerald ripple has dark green,
rippled leaf surfaces and makes a mounded habit. Watermelon
peperomia has silvery white stripes, similar to a watermelon
rind. There are variations you may find on each of these
three main species.
If you received a poinsettia or cyclamen as a holiday gift, keep
it blooming by providing proper care. Poinsettias need good
drainage, so if the pot is still wrapped in foil, make sure there
is a hole in the bottom so water drains out. Of course if
itís on furniture, place a saucer underneath to protect the
finish. Keep poinsettias away from drafts, such as near
doors or windows or hot woodstoves. Keep soil moist, but
donít overwater. Keep in bright light.
The latter applies, also, to cyclamen which can last for weeks if
kept cool (65 to 68 degrees F in day, less at night). Too
high temperatures, too little water or overwatering, or too low
light may cause leaves to yellow and drop.
When deicing walks, use one of the granular products with a
ďchlorideĒ other than sodium componentóthese are safer on
plants. They may cost a bit more, but you often can use
less. Calcium chloride works best in the coldest areas (down
to about 5 degrees F). If below this temperature, donít use
any chemical product but rather sand for traction. Liquid
products donít track into buildings as granular ones often
do. Apply any material before ice and snow, if possible, for
While snow makes a good protective cover for plants, if you use
salt to melt ice on driveways or walks, be careful not to pile
snow from these areas on your plants or where melting snow will
drain onto them. Otherwise, once snow melts in spring, flush
soil thoroughly with water to help dilute or wash away any salt
Return to Perry's Perennial Pages: Green Mountain Gardener Articles-- your reliable source of gardening information for over 50 years.