holly with red berries
Updated: March 13, 2023

Outdoor yard and garden tips

Sustainable Gardening

  • Winter is an excellent time to evaluate what worked well in your garden and what didn't and make plans for next year. Explore options for making your garden more resilient to our changing climate. Do you have space to plant a tree? Can you make a food garden in containers? Set up a drip irrigation system or a rain barrel to conserve water? These are all good practices to consider for next season.
  • Not sure what to give a gardening enthusiast this holiday season? The Master Gardener Handbook makes a nice gift and includes a wealth of sustainable gardening information for Maryland residents.
  • Be prepared for icy winter weather. Learn about options for melting ice safely around your home. Maryland's Lawn Fertilizer Law prohibits anyone from using fertilizer products to melt ice and snow on steps, sidewalks, or driveways.

Trees & Shrubs

  • Evergreens like hollies, boxwoods, and pines can be moderately pruned. The trimmings can be used for holiday decorating.
  • Carefully examine boxwood wreaths and decorative greens for symptoms of boxwood blight before purchasing. Be aware that sometimes infected plants don't show symptoms but are disease carriers. Using boxwood greens could possibly introduce this serious fungal disease to surrounding boxwoods. Bag and discard infected plant material in the trash.
  • If the weather has been dry, water young and newly planted trees and shrubs until the ground freezes.

Edible plants

  • Seed catalogs are beginning to arrive in the mail. How do you narrow the choices down to make the selection easier? For help, refer to How to Choose a Seed Catalog?
  • Cover strawberry plants with a piece of row cover to help prevent winter injury and promote early growth in the spring. 
  • Fire blight damage on apples and pears should be pruned out during the coldest periods in December or January. This will lessen the chance of spreading the bacterial infection.
  • Test your soil before planting blueberries. The desired soil pH for blueberry is 4.3-5.3. Use iron sulfate and elemental sulfur to drop the soil pH, a process that can take 6-12 months. These plants establish more quickly and are more productive in soils heavily amended with compost.

Indoor plants and pests

Indoor plants

  • An amaryllis bulb is a popular holiday gift. With proper care, they can bloom again. 
  • To keep poinsettias healthy keep them away from dry, drafty locations. Do not place near heat vents, doorways, or drafty windows. Remove the decorative pot cover or make holes in the bottom of it to make sure the water drains from the container when you water.



Chinese mantid egg mass
Chinese mantid egg mass
Photo: Lacy L. Hyche, Auburn University, Bugwood.org


  • Check to make sure the Christmas tree you purchase is fresh. Gently grasp a branch with your fingers and pull towards you. Very few needles should come off in your hand. The individual needles should be pliable when bent in half. Then raise the tree off the ground a few inches and hit the cut end of the trunk on the ground or pavement. If many needles shatter from the tree, it is a sign of dryness.
  • Keep the Christmas tree stand filled with water and check the level in the reservoir daily. There is no need to add preservatives to the water. 
  • Christmas trees can harbor praying mantid egg cases or spider eggs. Indoor temperatures can cause them to hatch. No need to panic. Small 'guests' can be vacuumed up or caught and released outside.