Garden Journal

Tips and Treats

Doreen G. Howard

Outdoor gardening has ended for most of us north of an imaginary line drawn from Los Angeles through North Carolina.  It’s time to concentrate on indoor plants and plan next year’s horticultural adventures. 

That’s what I’m doing, as temperatures are frigid, about 15 degrees below normal, and the wind is howling.


Are white flies hovering over the houseplants you’ve brought inside for the winter?  Is there scale on leaves?  I learned two easy and inexpensive fixes about a decade ago.  Cover the soil in containers with a ½-inch layer of sand or fine gravel.  The gritty texture destroys white fly eggs and none will hatch. 

Use baby wipes to kill scale.  The sheets are impregnated with alcohol, which kills scale.  Wipe every leaf and stem.  Repeat in two weeks in case tiny scale escaped your view the first time.

Use baby wipes to rid orchids and other houseplants of scale.  Photo by Doreen G. Howard

Don’t cut back chrysanthemums and asters when tidying up flower beds, especially in cold climates.  Roots of both plants are susceptible to death during freeze/thaw weather in January.  The bushy, dead growth insulates roots.  Cut off the dead stuff in April or when you see the first green shoots.


It’s not too early to think about what you’ll plant next year.  The National Garden Bureau, the non-profit organization that promotes gardening, has announced the three crops that will be featured in 2013.  In the Vegetable/Edible category, 2013 will be the Year of the Watermelon, the Year of the Gerbera for annuals and in the perennial category, the Year of the Wildflower.

Gerbera come in many colors and petal formations.  Photo courtesy of the National Garden Bureau.

Gorgeous, hardy and easy to grow, no wonder the National Garden Bureau named wildflowers the 2013 Perennial of the Year.

There are plenty tasty watermelon varieties to grow, but ‘Harvest Moon’ (one of the 2013 All-America Selection winners) is a hybrid, triploid seedless watermelon, similar to the heirloom variety, ‘Moon and Stars,’ ‘Harvest Moon’ is an improvement in that it features healthy, shorter vines that produce medium-sized fruits and sweet, crisp pinkish-red flesh.

'Harvest Moon' watermelon looks and tastes like 'Moon and Stars', an heirloom that can be difficult to grow for gardeners in some climates.  Photo courtesy of the National Garden Bureau.

The melon retains the familiar dark green rind with yellow dots, but is seedless, earlier to ripen, higher yielding and better tasting, according to AAS.  I can hardly wait to plant it next spring, as ‘Moon and Stars’ is my favorite heirloom watermelon.  Because ‘Harvest Moon’ is a triploid, it’s best to start seeds indoors and grow them until they have several sets of leaves.

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