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Weekly Gardening Tips: Happy New Year!

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By Bob Beyfuss

For Capital Region Independent Media

Headshot of a man named Bob Beyfuss.

I hope you had a nice holiday(s) and that Santa Claus brought you all the cool stuff you were hoping for! If not, I suggest you treat yourself to a gift or two, or three, to celebrate surviving another year!

The day, or even the week after Christmas, is often a great time to get a bargain on some beautiful gift plants. Poinsettias will look great for weeks as long as you don’t overwater them or cut off the colorful bracts. If they become infested with white fly, which look a lot like flying confetti, you might consider trashing them before these insects move onto other houseplants. Don’t feel guilty about this euthanasia, because next winter a whole new crop will be grown for you to enjoy!

If you did receive a new chainsaw, electric- or gas-powered, I suggest you buy yourself a helmet with a face shield and built-in hearing protection. In a previous column a few weeks ago, I said that a helmet was not necessary unless you are felling trees, but I was reminded by a reader that helmets with face shields can protect you from a chain “kick-back” injury to your face, regardless of where you are cutting up wood.

There are no “minor” injuries from being hit by a running chainsaw. Modern chainsaw technology has reduced the incidence of chain “kick-backs” a great deal, but they are still possible. Chainsaws can also pick up smaller pieces of wood and throw them at you as well, much faster than you can react. The helmet offers face, ear and head protection in one easy step and takes only seconds to put on. Don’t forget the chaps either. It takes me less than 30 seconds to put on my chaps and that is time well spent.    

For those of you enjoying a lovely gift plant, remember that the trick to keeping all of your houseplants healthy all winter is to be careful not to overwater them.  Like us humans, houseplants don’t usually thrive during the dark months and plants that are not actively growing rarely need to be watered. Allow the soil surface to dry out to a depth of several inches before watering.

Don’t apply any fertilizer at all during winter. Adding some supplemental Grow Lights will help to keep African violets and all their relatives (Achimenes, the lipstick plant,  Aeschynanthus, the flame violet, the Cape primrose or Streptocarpus, the goldfish plant or Nematanthus and the florist gloxinia and other sinningias)  happier than a drafty windowsill.

Christmas cactus that bloom profusely on one side, but not the other, are doing so in response to cold temperatures near a window. Turn the plants frequently to ensure a more uniform display. If the Christmas or Thanksgiving cactus does not bloom at all, find a place with night temperatures in the 50s to trigger flowering. 

I will be entering the new year with less hair on my head but more hair in my ears, on my neck and back. I have more belly in front, as my formerly manly chest and shoulders have descended, the victims of time and gravity that no one can escape.

I have less money in the bank, but I am more satisfied with what I have. There is surely less time left in my hourglass, but I am more aware of this fact. I lost a couple of old friends in 2022, but made some new ones, as well. 2022 was a very good year for me mentally, as I was able to resume my pre-COVID lifestyle and make several road trips to Appalachia and Wisconsin.

As usual, I have some gardening resolutions that I may or may not achieve in 2023. After last year’s disastrous garden failure, I don’t think I can possibly do as badly as I did.

I resolve to ignore the urge to buy and use chemicals, especially herbicides, as much as I usually do. I will grow only eight full-size tomato plants, plus a couple of cherry types. I will not grow sweet corn, hot peppers or any other vegetable I don’t really enjoy. Fewer winter squash, more cucumbers, no turnips, the same quantity of green beans (ten plants total), more beets, my old onion favorite, (sweet sandwich), fewer leeks (a dozen is plenty!), perhaps some red cabbage or Chinese cabbage, and maybe a few potatoes, if there is no evidence of voles.  

For all you dear readers, I ask that you all resolve to not be so easily offended in 2023 by the nightly news, your partners (who really do love you, even if it does not seem that way all the time), bad drivers, inconsiderate drivers, traffic lights, politics, rude people and idiots on Facebook!

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