Garden To Do List December

It seems like it was just yesterday that I was compiling a list of garden to dos for last January and here it is December!  As you can imagine most of the chores this month are centered around the holidays and take place indoors where it’s warm.

  • Spice up your holiday decorations with orange clove pomanders. They also make wonderfully fragrant gifts.
  • If you are "going green" this holiday season and are using a live tree so you can plant it outdoors, do not keep it inside for more than 6 days. It will come out of dormancy and the shock of moving it back outside might prove to be too much for it to survive.
  • Cut back on watering and fertilizing your houseplants.  Plants aren’t in an active growth stage during winter and don’t need as much moisture or nutrients.  Water when the soil is dry to the touch and hold off on fertilizing the plants until March.
  • To keep holiday greenery fresh longer, prepare the boughs by re-cutting the stems, and soak the entire limb in water overnight. Completely submerge garlands and wreaths in a galvanized tub or bathtub for 12 hours. For evergreens like fir and spruce that tend to shed their needles, you can also spray the boughs with a floral fixative available at a craft store or garden center. Follow label directions.
  • Few indoor plants offer more color and drama than the amaryllis. To prolong the bloom of this magnificent flower try this method. Once the flower bud opens, remove the yellow anthers inside the flower with tweezers before they shed pollen.  The flowers will also last longer if the plant is moved to a cooler room at night (55-65 degrees) and out of direct sunlight during the day.
  • To prolong poinsettia color, keep the plants in rooms where the temperature is around 60 degrees at night and 72 degrees during the daytime and out of direct sunlight. The flowers will also last longer if the plants are moved to a cooler room at night.
  • Be sure the trees you planted this year are staked and supported with guy wire.  The weight of ice combined with the force of strong winds can literally uproot newly planted trees.
  • You can still plant daffodil bulbs as long as the ground is not frozen. 
  • Open a window in your greenhouse on warm winter days to create good ventilation.  Be sure to shut it before nightfall.
  • Check drying gourds.  A certain amount of mold growth can be expected.  Discard any that are rotting.
  • Late fall and early winter are ideal for soil testing.  If the soil is workable you can make any changes now and get a jump start on spring.   
  • Pot up paperwhites every week for continuous bloom well into the New Year.
  • Avoid using salt based chemical de-icers on sidewalks because salt is bad for nearby plants.  Choose a potassium or calcium based mix or plain old sand instead.
  • Celebrate the winter solstice on December 21st.  Now the days will be gradually getting longer, which means spring is on its way!



Good to Know

I garden in zone 7b.  Spring usually starts in March and fall extends through November.  The summers are long and hot.  I write these tips with the idea that they are applicable to all zones during a general period of time. However, given microclimates and weather extremes timing can vary.  Observe the conditions in your garden and apply them accordingly.