December is our most festive of months and twinkling lights have sprung up outside to cheer us into the Christmas season. Our weather has brought us the cold weather with most of our gardening outside completed. If you’re like me it’s time to buy a real Christmas tree, listen to Christmas songs and put up my holiday memories. Each decoration or ornament brings back memories. It’s like bringing out old friends into the house. If you haven’t finished your outside chores there’s still time to complete them.
Evergreens—Trim junipers, pines and fir branches moderately and use the trimmed branches to cover perennial beds, decorate for the holidays or use in winter containers.
Perennials—Once the ground has frozen it’s time to apply mulch or cover with evergreen boughs to prevent perennials from heaving (freezing and thawing of the soil around plants can push perennials, especially newly planted perennials, up out of the ground) during the winter. Do not prune down all your perennials. If there are seed heads or grasses leave them for food for the birds or other wildlife.
Trees and Shrubs—Do not prune at this time but wait until the ground has fully frozen in February and March. It is all right to trim off berries or interesting seed pods for winter arrangements or containers.
Annuals—If you haven’t cut down your annuals do so at this time but remember to leave them in the garden bed so any remaining seed can drop into the soil to reseed in the spring and the cut back annuals stems can also act as a covering for the garden bed.
Rodents and Deer—Occasionally take a walk around your garden throughout winter to watch for damage from rodents or deer. Watch for snow tunnels that indicate voles could be eating the roots of trees or shrubs.
Birds—Continue feeding birds through the winter months.
Indoor Plants—Reduce watering of indoor plants. The container soil doesn’t dry out as quickly as it does in warmer months. Check all holiday and indoor plants for insects and diseases to prevent any long-term problems. Holiday plants can continue to be enjoyed if you keep them in a cool sunny window or put them with your indoor plant growing areas.
Gardening Equipment and Tools—This is a great time to fix, clean, sharpen or replace garden tools. You will save money if you maintain and repair your tools rather than replacing.
Seed and Nursery Catalogues—It’s time to send for your seed and nursery catalogues so that you can have plenty of time during the long winter months to dream and plan changes to your garden. Ordering early ensures you’ll get those seeds or plants before they sell out. Look at your garden log and pictures to see what worked and how you can improve on your ideas.