Daily Hampshire Gazette - Established 1786
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Gardener's checklist

* Take a stroll around your home landscape and inspect trees and shrubs to see if they need some preventative maintenance. It should be easy to spot problems now, especially on deciduous plants that have lost their leaves. Things to look for are dead, diseased and damaged branches, as well as branches that are crisscrossing and rubbing against one another, and ones which are growing back into the center of the tree or shrub. Remove all of the offending branches before we get into the heavy, wet snow period.

* Be careful when using rock salt (sodium chloride) as a de-icer on walks and driveways this winter. Not only can it contaminate ground water, a concern for those of us with wells, but it can be very damaging to plants. Use the product sparingly or use an alternative such as a product containing CMA (calcium magnesium acetate). Of course, there is always that product that our grandparents relied on — sand.

* Give potted herbs plenty of space. Give the plants enough room so that light can reach the lower leaves.

* Cut some sprigs of rosemary and lavender and work these into holiday wreaths, swags and other decorations to add a touch of fragrance.

* Attach a packet of seeds to your holiday gifts, especially if the gifts are intended for a gardener.

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Few things cheer me up more than walking into a room decorated with poinsettias, cyclamen, kalanchoe and other holiday plants. Well, that’s the cheery part. The sad part is that too often many of these plants do not survive long enough to hear the second chorus of “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer.” The root of their demise is most often due to rotten roots. Rotting is what roots do when they sit in a pot of soil that is perpetually saturated with water. How does this happen? It happens when you don’t give your potted holiday plants the finger. You can do this by poking a finger about an inch into the soil. If the soil feels moist, step away from the plant and put your hands in the air. If the soil feels dry, give it a good dose of water. How much is a good dose? That’s enough water to saturate the soil until the excess drains out the hole in the bottom of the pot. Allow about 10 minutes for the water to drain. Do not leave this water in the pan or dish on which the pots sits. Dump it! Oops, no drainage hole in the bottom of the pot. In that case, repot the plant into a container with drainage holes. Ignoring this task is naughty, and Santa is still keeping that list. So, you better watch out.

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