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The Journal Gazette

Saturday, December 02, 2017 1:00 am

Seasonal decor can live after holidays

Ricky Kemery

The holiday season is full of activity and to-do lists that can sometimes cause stress and worry. Several holiday tasks involving the garden, landscape and interior scape also need attention.

If you buy a live Christmas tree, make sure to re-cut the trunk and place the tree in the water reservoir ASAP. If not, then store the tree in a cold garage in a bucket of water before placing in the house.

The internet is full of homemade recipes for the tree well, which include Karo syrup, bleach, vinegar, sugar and so on.

The only additive that research has shown that might have some effect in preserving the tree is aspirin (one aspirin per tree well) and even then the results are mixed.

If you are going to buy a live tree to plant in your landscape after the holiday season, then pre-dig the planting hole in the yard before the ground freezes completely. Store the backfill (the soil you took out of the planting hole) on a tarp and drag the soil to the garage. Cover the pre-dug hole with plywood and place leaves over the wood to insulate the soil. Needless to say, one will still need to have utilities marked before you even start.

Plant the tree as soon as the holiday is over, and stake the tree after planting. Keep an eye on the tree in the spring, and water if necessary (this will usually be 10 gallons a week if no rainfall occurs).

Remember that many holiday decorations can be harmful to pets. Mistletoe can kill a pet if ingested, so keep it out of reach of small kids and pets. Holly leaves and berries can also be toxic.

Amaryllis is a popular gift for gardeners in the family. If your amaryllis is not already potted, plant each amaryllis bulb in a 6- to 8-inch clay pot filled with professional growers mix. Plant the bulb, pointed-end-up. Do not use soil from the garden or cheap bagged black soil because the container will not drain properly. Pack the soil gently around the bulb so approximately one-third of the bulb remains above the soil line.

Place the pot in a location that receives bright, indirect light. Keep the soil moist, but not soggy. Flower buds will appear at the top of each stalk, followed by a dramatic floral display. To prolong the blooms, keep the pot out of direct sunlight.

After bloom, feed the plant regularly with a liquid houseplant fertilizer. Many folks place the amaryllis outdoors after mid-May. In mid-August, begin withholding water and let the foliage die back naturally as the pot dries out completely.

Bring the pot indoors before the last hard frost. Store the dormant bulb in a cool, dark and dry place until early November. Re-pot the bulb in fresh potting soil and place it in bright, indirect light. Resume watering and new growth will begin; the plant should produce more flowers for the holiday season.

The Plant Medic, written by Ricky Kemery, appears every other Saturday. Kemery retired as the extension educator for horticulture at the Allen County branch of the Purdue Extension Service.