Poinsettias are among the easiest holiday plants to grow. First, you must choose a healthy one, and get it home without suffering any cold damage. It should be wrapped well, then transported in a heated vehicle, not left in the car while you do other shopping. Cut the bottom of the decorative pot covering so excess water drains out, and place the poinsettia in a bright, sunny location. Water thoroughly when the soil surface begins to dry, and then fertilize monthly after four to six weeks. The U of M Extension has a great publication available for more information on the care of poinsettias.
Don't hesitate to buy a fresh Minnesota-grown Christmas tree. They're a renewable crop produced on marginal agricultural land. As trees are harvested, others are planted for future sales. While they grow, conifers reduce soil erosion and provide habitat for wildlife. Once you get the tree home, cut an inch or so off it's base, then set it immediately in a stand that holds plenty of water. No additives are needed; just make sure the water doesn't run out. The Minnesota Christmas Tree Association has more information about how to find a farm near you.
The best way to keep icy sidewalks, steps and driveways sage without damaging nearby plants is to rely primarily on sand or grit, rather than de-icing products. If necessary, mix a small amount of deicer or lawn fertilizer into the sand. The fertilizer or deicer will run off eventually, and accumulates in the soil. The more you use over the winter, the more likely that plants will be burned be deicer or fertilizer salts.
Happy holidays from your friends at the Yard and Garden News! Have a safe and merry month, and we will see you in the new year.
Yard and Garden News Editor: Karl Foord
Technical Editor: Bridget Barton