Christmas trees can be repurposed
After Christmas, move your live cut tree outside and redecorated it for the birds. Anchor the tree in a bucket full of damp sand or tie it to a fence or tree. Add strings of popcorn and cranberries. Apples, oranges, leftover bread and pine cones covered with peanut butter and then dipped in birdseed may also be added.
For best results, push the edible ornaments well into the tree so that they do not blow off as readily.
• Check the seeds you have saved and stored from last year's garden. Discard anything that is damp, diseased or moldy and then determine what you need to order for the coming year.
Order plants and seeds now to help ensure the availability of the plant varieties you would like to grow next spring. Consider varieties that are pest- and disease-resistant to minimize future problems in the garden.
• Inspect squash, potatoes, root crops and other vegetables and fruits you have in winter storage. Although conditions may have been ideal when you harvested and stored them in the fall, winter weather may have made it too cold or damp. Vegetables stored in an unheated garage will likely freeze in very cold winter weather and should be moved to the basement and kept as cool as possible. Throw away or compost anything that has spoiled or has soft spots. The same goes for summer flower bulbs like dahlias and gladioli that you saved to plant next spring.
• Continue to monitor your garden for damage from animals and install barriers as needed to prevent further damage. It is easy to forget about the garden in the winter, but animals can continue causing damage. As snow piles up, rabbits can reach higher into shrubs to feed.
Repellent may be applied when temperatures are above 40 degrees Fahrenheit for a few hours. You may need to reapply once every month, and more often if temperatures are warm and there is rain.
• Tim Johnson is director of horticulture at Chicago Botanic Garden, chicagobotanic.org.