University of Vermont Extension
Department of Plant and Soil Science
CLEANING BIRD FEEDERS
AND OTHER JANUARY GARDENING TIPS
Charlie Nardozzi, Senior
Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension
University of Vermont
Cleaning bird feeders,
checking houseplants for insects, and propagating African violets are some of
the gardening tips 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 (one
part bleach to nine parts water). Rinse thoroughly.
If you have a heated
bird bath (a good idea if you don't), make sure to clean it every few days
too. I have an old brush just for this
purpose. Don't use your kitchen one that
is used on eating surfaces. Of course
these can just be cleaned outdoors when filling them.
If you've noticed disease in the
past on plants near your bird feeder, particularly if infected parts are
covered with white fluffy growth, the problem could be a fungus that's
contained in sunflower seeds. In addition, sunflower seed hulls themselves can
impede the growth of certain plants, so to be on the safe side, move your
feeder away from your gardens. If that's not possible, periodically clean up
any seeds and hulls around the base of the feeder and destroy them. Spring is a good time to do this with a rake,
shovel, and wheelbarrow.
Aphids and spider mites may be
multiplying like crazy amidst your houseplants, especially if they are grouped
close together. Isolate each plant and inspect it closely with a magnifying glass
if necessary. Treat these pests by holding the plant and pot upside down and
submerging the foliage in a sink full of soapy water (wrap aluminum foil over
the soil to keep it from falling out). Use a mild detergent, or weak solution,
so not to damage the plant leaf surfaces.
In severe cases, spray the plant with insecticidal soap or similar
insecticide for indoors.
If that geranium or coleus you're
overwintering inside has sent out spindly new shoots, keep trimming it back
until the increased sunlight can support sturdier growth. If you have low
light, keeping the plant in a cooler location (50 to 60 degrees F) may help.
To get off to a clean start with
seed starting this year, disinfect flats and pots in soapy water with bleach
added: one part bleach to nine parts water. The longer you can soak them, the
better. Then rinse well. Be sure to scrub off any soil before this disinfecting
Now is a good time to repot any
houseplants with roots coming out of the drainage holes. Choose a pot one size
larger than the current pot, remove the plant, trim any roots that are too
long, and repot using fresh potting soil.
African violets are easy to
propagate by leaf cuttings. Snip off a leaf, dip the cut end in a rooting
hormone powder (available at garden stores), and stick the cutting in a pot
filled with vermiculite or sand. Cover the pot with a perforated clear plastic
bag and keep the soil moist. In a few weeks you'll have new plants, which you
can pot up separately.
Orchid flowers are favorite hiding
spots for mealybugs, and scale insects favor the flower stalks and undersides
of leaves. Inspect each flower closely, especially the backside where it
attaches to the flower stem. Remove insects with a cotton swab dipped in
Return to Perry's Perennial