<p>There are tasks we can perform now to alleviate our restlessness. Last fall’s chillingly abrupt end to the growing season meant that we just put tools away, thinking we’d use them later …
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<p>There are tasks we can perform now to alleviate our restlessness. Last fall’s chillingly abrupt end to the growing season meant that we just put tools away, thinking we’d use them later and then finally store them properly. If that is your story, you might want to check your tools and give them a good cleaning on a mild day. Use steel wool pads (SOS pads also work) and scrape off rust and other coatings. Wash them with a mild detergent and then clean with a cloth moistened with rubbing alcohol to kill any lurking pathogens. Since most of us have our favorite tools we are fiercely fond of, regular maintenance will keep them useful as long as we need them. Besides, good tools are expensive to replace.</p><p><em>Q. Our children started gardening with us last summer and we’d like to continue this year but need something to maintain their interest now, in addition to library books. My grandmother always had seed catalogs. Are they still available?</em></p><p>A. Yes, they are; although you often have to pay postage that is refunded with your first order since the catalogs are expensive to produce. Yet the colorful pictures of dew-kissed green vegetables and sun-ripened tomatoes are totally captivating and worth every cent you might pay. Plan a pretend garden with your children and even let them cut pictures to “plant” an indoor garden.</p><p><em>Q. We relegated our gift poinsettias to our compost pile, but my husband and I are of differing minds regarding the kalanchoe and the cyclamen. Are they worth saving?</em></p><p>A. Yes, if you have a cool, sunny spot for them. My cyclamen cheerfully bloom in my sunroom all winter. I then plant them outdoors in a shady area in May and try to remember to re-pot them in the fall for indoor blooming. Go easy on the watering and water by watering the base of the bulb rather than the top surface.</p><p>Kalanchoes are succulents and need to be treated accordingly. They like sun and they want to be kept on the dry side. They may discontinue blooming during darker winter months, but will perk up again in spring. They also can be planted outdoors but they are not hardy.</p><p><em>Q. I am concerned about last fall’s abrupt killing frost when many of our trees still had their leaves. How will that harm them?</em></p><p>A. It definitely will stress them because all were in varying stages of dormancy. The more dormant they were, the more able they were to withstand the plummeting temperatures. There is little we can do except wait and see (always an essential trait in gardeners). In the meantime, you must thoroughly water your trees once a month on a warm sunny day unless we have a substantial snowstorm.</p><p>We are all responsible for violent weather patterns. Is it really necessary to have a lawn made artificially green by a chemical stew? Those chemical fumes also go into the atmosphere. Can we lessen our driving? Buy items with minimal packaging? Yes, these <em>are</em> related to gardening because unruly weather affects our landscapes and our ability to grow food.</p><p><em>Q. I rescued a Christmas cactus from the office dumpster because I think I heard they are long-lived indoor plants. How do I care for it and will it automatically re-bloom, or do I need to do something?</em></p><p>A. You now have joined the vast company of plant rescuers. A Christmas cactus is a good place to start because there are hardy plants.</p><p>The first thing to remember is that they are not true cacti but more closely related to succulents. This means they do require some watering.</p><p>Loosen the soil and water when the top half of the soil is dry. Never let the soil become soggy: excess moisture is fatal. Then put the plant in a bright room now, but avoid strong sunlight in the spring and summer. You also might want to put your plant outdoors in a shady or protected area in the summer.</p><p>In the fall, I put mine in a basement window and they all bloom happily, but a friend has hers in a hanging basket in her kitchen (northwest exposure) all year and her plant also blooms. See how agreeable the plants are? Successful watering, though, is the key to survival. Enjoy your new green friend.</p><p><em>Q. Should I continue to water my amaryllis now that the blooms have faded? I know the plants need to go dormant.</em></p><p>A. Continue to water as you would any indoor plant. Then plant it outdoors in rich soil in the summer. Take it in in late summer and let it go dormant then.</p><p>Here’s a bit of trivia for <em>Farmer’s Almanac</em> devotees: The oldest existing almanacs were written in the 1300s with predictions made from ancient Persian astrologers. These predictions enabled people to know the best times for planting.</p><p><em>In this Wolf Moon month, note:</em></p><p><em>A liquid moon moving</em></p><p><em>Gently among the long branches.</em></p><p><em>Thus having prepared their buds</em></p><p><em>against a sure winter</em></p><p><em>The wise trees stand sleeping</em></p><p><em>in the cold.</em></p><p>Elinor Wylie</p><p></p>To a January of promise.
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