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  • December garden tips & tasks

    It’s a good time to plant trees and shrubs. After you plant, mulch the ground around the tree, but don’t mound the much up around the trunk.

    Did you plant pansies? They need water. Give the soil a good soaking during dry weather.

    Discourage deer from browsing your garden by using strong-smelling repellents – either commercial products or homemade.

    Water houseplants regularly, but don’t allow the plants to sit in water. Most houseplants do well if you let he soil dry out slightly between waterings.

    Trees planted in fall require moisture, even if the weather is cold. If it hasn’t rained, check to see if the soil is dry, and provide water if it is.

    Keep bird feeders filled, and provide water for the birds that visit your garden.

    Houseplants that require a lot of light may need to be shifted to a sunnier location.

    A balled-and-burlapped evergreen that you use indoors as a Christmas tree should be planted as soon as possible after the holidays. Keep it in a heated room five days or less.

    Start several amaryllis bulbs at weekly intervals to have a continuous show of flowers in your home through the winter.

    Update your garden journal. Make notes on this year’s successes and challenges, and on changes that you want to make in your garden next year.

    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.