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  • January garden tips & tasks

    Begin a garden journal. Use it to jot down ideas and lists of plants you want to grow this year.

    Keep bird feeders filled to attract a wide variety of winged visitors to your garden in winter.

    If you bring home new houseplants, protect them from the cold air on the trip home. Once you bring them in, keep them separate from other plants for a few days to watch for pests.

    When the ground freezes and thaws, plants can be pushed out of the ground – a process known as “heaving.” If this happens, tuck the roots back into the soil and cover the area with a layer of mulch.

    You can grow herbs on a sunny windowsill indoors, but pinch them back regularly to keep them from getting tall and “leggy.”

    Birds also need water in winter, so provide water in a birdbath or shallow pan and change it frequently.

    Winter is a good time to have the soil in your lawn or garden beds tested. The Extension Service in your county can provide materials and instructions for testing.

    Watch for pests on houseplants and tender outdoor plants that spend the winter indoors. If you see evidence of aphids or scale infestations, take action immediately to keep them from spreading to other plants.Save the date

    Save the date

    Planners of the ever-popular Nashville Lawn & Garden Show announce that next spring's show will be March 2 - 5, 2017 at The Fairgrounds Nashville. The theme will celebrate Gardens of the Future with garden displays, lectures, vendors, floral designs, and special features for children. The centerpiece of the all-indoors event is, as always, the walk-through, interactive garden displays from some of Middle Tennessee's top landscape and gardening companies. Free lectures are planned each day on a range of garden-related topics, and visitors can shop the Marketplace with more than 150 vendors. Complete details will be available soon at http://nashvillelawnandgardenshow.com, where you can also sign up for the email newsletter and receive updates.

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The trouble with winter creeper

QUESTION: A vine with dark green, oval leaves and thick woody stems is growing up through the middle of my shrubs. It seems to grow all year. What a nuisance! How can I get rid of it?

Winter creeper euonymus grows in sun or shade, can cover slopes, fences, trees, and is hard to get rid of once it's established.

It sounds like you are describing winter creeper euonymus, an evergreen that can sprawl along the ground (or on slopes, where it can help control erosion) or it can climb and attach itself to trees, walls and other surfaces with aerial roots.

You may see it described as “tough” or “aggressive,” and come to understand that to mean you’ll have a hard time getting rid of it. Indeed, it’s a non-native invasive plant, brought here from  the other side of the world in the early part of the last century. The Tennessee Exotic Pest Plant Council lists it as a “lesser threat,” but a threat nonetheless.

Cutting it down, pulling it out and digging it up are the best ways to begin the attack on winter creeper. Where digging doesn’t work, try cutting it back and applying glyphosate herbicide (such as Roundup) as a 2-percent solution (8 ounces per 3-gallon mix) in water to the stump that’s left. You’ll have to keep doing this, and you’ll have to be careful not to get the herbicide on the surrounding plants.

After the vine has been removed, the best way to keep it from returning is to keep an eye on the area and pull up individual seedlings as soon as you see them.

Small space, big harvests

Is that really possible? Maybe, and there’s a new book in the Complete Idiot’s Guide series that’s here to help. The book is The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Small-Space Gardening, and the author, Chris McLaughlin, provides quite a bit of good information on how to make the most of whatever plots or pots you have available. It’s published by Alpha Books; the price printed on the book is $19.95; at the Web site idiotsguides.com it’s listed as now $12.97.