University of Vermont Extension 
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Winter News Article


Charlie Nardozzi, Senior Horticulturist
National Gardening Association, and
Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont

Checking forcing bulbs, stored produce, and watching indoors for fungus gnats are some of the gardening activities for this month.

You can improve your indoor environment--and the health of your plants--by increasing the humidity level.  Place houseplants on shallow trays covered with pebbles.  Add water to the trays until it just touches the bottom of each pot.  If you use a wood stove, keep a pot of water on the top of the stove to add moisture to the air.  Humidifiers can also be used.  Adding humidity is especially useful in homes with forced air heat.

If you've noticed tiny black flies that look like fruit flies around your indoor plants, they are probably fungus gnats. Though annoying when they flit about, the 1/8-inch long adult insects are harmless. Their tiny, worm-like larvae feed on organic matter in moist soil, which can include plant roots. To control them, allow the soil to dry out between waterings, use sticky traps, or spread a thin layer of sand on the surface.

When you're finished with holiday evergreen boughs, use them to mulch tender perennials and shrubs. They make a lightweight, but insulating, layer that helps protect
plants from alternating temperatures like a thaw followed by a deep freeze.

Now is the time to order bare-root fruit trees online or through catalogs, sources that offer a wide selection. Bare-root trees are shipped in late winter or early spring before they start to grow, but in time for immediate planting in your area.

Potatoes, onions, carrots, turnips, and other root crops that you have stored in your basement or root cellar should be checked regularly for signs of decay. Any vegetables that show any rotting should be removed and eaten (if possible) immediately so they don't spread the disease to other vegetables.

Geraniums that you brought indoors this winter are probably getting tall and leggy by now if they're not growing in full sun or under artificial grow lights.  Take 4- to 6-inch cuttings, strip off the bottom set of leaves, dip the cut ends in rooting hormone powder, and stick the cuttings in a pot filled with moist peat moss or perlite. Keep the soil moist, and they should root in a few weeks.

Other gardening tips for this month include fertilizing flowering houseplants, keeping bird feeders filled, and ordering seeds online or from catalogs for spring sowing. Visit the National Gardening Associationís web site ( for more information on gardening and regional reports.

Return to Perry's Perennial Pages, Articles