Deck the Halls with boughs of holly

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By Susan Stone

Take a break from weeding this month and deck the halls! We have beautiful greenery to choose from. Not only can you add holly to your arrangements and wreaths for the holidays, you have a plethora of choices.

Juniper, boxwood, palm, cedar, magnolia and pine add a touch of the Lowcountry to any holiday decoration. You can spray paint them as well to add a little color to your arrangements. Seed pods and grasses are excellent choices as well. And don’t forget shells — oyster and clam shells are perfect for making angel ornaments for the crafty decorator. Or just simply add starfish to your garlands and trees for that coastal look.

There is little to do in the garden for the next two months, unless you have winter crops. Harvesting and replanting continue year round for the food growers. And if you have stubborn scale and mealy buy on your evergreens, this is the time of year to treat with dormant oil. Other than that, just keep your gardens hydrated to protect against frost damage and enjoy some time off.

Over the year, I have published some recipes for natural bug repellent, weed killer and the like. Just in case you missed some of them, here they are:

Natural Bug Repellent:

• 1 oz. Cinnamon Leaf Oil (approx. $6 on Amazon.com)

• 8 oz. Witch Hazel

Mix and spray. For No-See-Um’s, mosquitoes, chiggers, fleas and biting fly. (Please test for sensitivity to the cinnamon. Never use undiluted.)

Natural Weed Killer

• 1 gallon White Vinegar

• 1 cup Pickling Salt

• 1 cup Cheap Dish Soap

Mix in a pump sprayer. (Be selective, it will kill anything green!)

Powdery Mildew, Rust & other Funguses: Our beloved Crepe Myrtles and roses are very susceptible to powdery mildew. Early detection and treatment are vital. Milk and buttermilk can be an effective remedy if caught early. Simply use full to half strength (can be mixed with water) and sprayed every 7-10 days. Compost Tea has the same effect.

Making Compost Tea is very easy and doubles as a liquid fertilizer. Just like any other tea, steep in water (out in the sun is perfect), strain and use. You can add Blood Meal, Bone Meal and or Manure to the mix, set aside for a week to dissolve then pour a little over your plants each week. This is a perfect fertilizer for lawns too.

Garlic is not only a good fungicide, but an excellent insecticide as well. You should know that like many insecticides, it is not selective. It will kill even the non-harmful or beneficial insects. To make a batch, I use about 10 cloves to a gallon of water. The garlic must be crushed and then steeped in the water (set in the sun), or use a blender to mix, then strain.

Fire Ants can ruin any outdoor activity and drive your pets crazy. One simple and safe solution is to treat your lawn in the early spring with Dried Molasses. It is available in 50 lb. bags at your local feed and seed store. You simply spread it like a fertilizer with a lawn spreader. I don’t know why it drives them off; perhaps it puts them in a diabetic coma? But it seems to work.

Enjoy some well-deserved time off and enjoy the harvests from your gardens.

Until next time, Happy New Year!

Fa la la la la, la la la la!

You may send Susan your questions and garden wisdom to theriverangel.ss@gmail.com.