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Dates to remember:

Dec. 24-25: Morton County Courthouse closed

Dec. 26: 4-H Weird Science, Mandan

Dec. 28: 4-H Blanket Party, Mandan

Jan. 3, 10: Basic Beginnings, Mandan

This time of year is always my favorite with the many decorations, trees, flowers and plants that help us celebrate the holidays. Poinsettia plants are one of my mom’s favorites and the last few years she has managed to keep it alive long after the holidays are gone through some easy steps.

When selecting a poinsettia check a few colored leaves (bract) as well as some of the green leaves to make sure they are free of leaf spots and insects. Before leaving the store, make sure the poinsettia is properly covered using a plastic bag filled with warm air. Chilling injury can occur if exposed to temperatures below 50 F.

Poinsettia will remain healthy and colorful longer if placed in a sunny location away from heat vents and cold drafts. Ambient temperature should be around 65 to 70 F. The soil should be kept moist but not saturated. Water poinsettia thoroughly when the soil surface is dry and make sure excess water is removed from the saucer. Poinsettia can be fertilized monthly using an all-purpose houseplant fertilizer mixed half strength.

Poinsettias can rebloom the following Christmas with some work ahead of time. In late April or early May, prune back to eight inches and continue to keep in a sunny location. Once the danger of frost has passed and night temperatures have warmed, place outdoors in a location that is protected from the midday sun.

Bring poinsettia indoors when night temperatures begin to cool and place in a sunny location. Starting mid-September or early October, the plant needs to be kept in total darkness for 14 hours each night. This can be accomplished by placing the plant in a closet, cupboard, basement or by placing a black trash bag over the plant. Any method that will exclude all light is acceptable. Each day return the plant to its sunny location and repeat this routine daily until bracts have turned color, usually eight to 10 weeks. Any disruption to this routine could cause bract coloration to be delayed or completely absent.

App for winter travel

It’s a great time to download the Winter Travel Safety App by NDSU Extension. The app is free for Android and iOS phones. If you become stranded, the app will assist in alerting you where you are geographically and also contact emergency services. The app’s gas calculator will help you estimate how long you can run your engine on your remaining fuel.

The app will alert you every 30 minutes to remind you to turn off your vehicle’s engine periodically and check the exhaust pipe for snow buildup. These alerts can be critical in helping you avoid deadly carbon monoxide poisoning.

A great tool that can also be used is how to put together a physical winter survival kit, prepare your vehicle for winter driving and stay safe when stranded in a storm or stuck in the snow.

The app was developed by Myriad Devices, a company founded by students and faculty in the NDSU Electrical and Computer Engineering Department and College of Business. NDSU Extension provided design and content input and funded the project with a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant.

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Karla Meikle is the Morton County Extension agent for 4-H youth development.