Look for heaving in the garden,

the phenomenon of recently planted perennials and shrubs lifting from the soil around them during a hard freeze (especially one that follows a lot of precipitation). If the soil has thawed, gently press them back into place. If it's frozen solid, sift some commercial potting soil into the crevices. Mulch to prevent a recurrence.

Do right by flowering gifts.

Heating vents and south-facing windows are better for people than for plants. Aim for strong indirect light and lower nighttime temperatures. Cyclamen prefers high humidity and 60 to 65 degrees during the day. Keep poinsettias and amaryllis watered. Not all orchids are alike - some need warm nights. With the precise variety name in hand, consult the local library or the greenhouse that sold the plant.

Treat the birds properly.

If you start feeding them with a snazzy new feeder, you must continue all winter.

Enjoy the live Christmas tree

while you can - it should not stay inside more than seven or eight days. Water it daily. But don't plant immediately - give it several days in a cool garage. Plant when the temperature is above freezing, water well and mulch.

Coddle your garden

and help the planet by reducing municipal waste: Collect a couple of discarded Christmas trees. The branches are ideal winter mulch, helping to minimize the freeze-thaw effects of a vacillating thermometer. Wait for a hard freeze to put the branches down. Raised beds get priority.

Make good use

of unwanted desk calendars - the booklike variety that displays a week at a time. Turn one into a journal of your 2009 garden.

Save the big Styrofoam blocks

that come with electronic gear. Come May, use them in the bottoms of large planters of annuals to lessen the weight and the expenditure on potting soil. (Don't, however, use packing peanuts for this purpose.)

Have a friend check

on houseplants if you're heading for the islands. Tell novices not to overwater. For a long absence, group plants around a full bucket of water and fashion a tent of clear plastic over and around them to raise humidity. Perhaps in the bathtub.

- Michael Martin Mills