December Garden Notes

Can you believe it is December already? The vegetable garden is rather sparse now, with some last minute greens, such as lettuce and kale, or even some turnips. Harvest is about over for this year. One way to extend the growing season is to use floating row covers or build a cold frame.

Let’s check out some last minute items in your garden and yard that could use your attention:

  • Trees and shrubs need to be mulched, wrapped, or supported in preparation for the snow and winter wind.

  • Shore up cracks around the house to help keep critters like mice out. The little fellows are searching for warm places to spend the cold winter months.

  • Get the snow equipment ready, snow blower filled up, snow shovels out and nearby, and cat litter for icy spots.

  • Fruit trees can be pruned anytime they are dormant, between November and March. Make sure you remove any dropped fruit from under the trees, as this will help with rodent and disease control. Sanitation is the key. Now is the time to order fruit plants for spring, and be sure to indicate the desired dates you want them shipped.

  • Consider covering your strawberry patch with a piece of floating row cover. This will help prevent winter injury and promote early growth in the spring. Also cover the vegetable garden with shredded leaves, straw, and bark mulch to help minimize soil erosion and nutrient run-off.

  • Leave the seed heads on the perennials for the winter birds. Dahlia tubers and canna rhizomes should have been dug and placed in sawdust or a potting mix, and stored in a cool, dry location where temperatures remain above freezing.

  • Winter is challenging for house plants because of less daylight, less humidity, and over watering. Hold the water until the soil is dry to the touch, and do not fertilize the plants as they are going to rest for a while. A tray of pebbles beneath the plant pot, with water to the top of the pebbles, will help with the humidity around the plant.

  • Get that soil test for the spring. You can’t go wrong with that chore, because it will help you get the best production out of your vegetable garden. You won’t waste your money by putting on too much nutrient or lose production by using too little nutrient.

  • Take a walk around the garden and flower beds, and hand pull any winter annuals such as chickweed, henbit, hairy bittercress, and dead nettle.

  • December is the time to clean nest boxes and feeders. Scrape and remove nesting materials, then scrub with hot soapy water, rinse, and let dry. Hang the boxes up again for the cavity nesters, chickadees, and titmice, who may use the boxes for roosting during the cold winter months. Don’t put the bird bath away after you clean it— think about putting a heater in it. The bird bath will then be a source of water when other sources are frozen. Use suet to feed the birds now, as it is a high energy food source.

  • It is time to review the successes and failures of the garden for 2018. Think of ways to improve your productivity and make changes where there were failures.

  • Look for the beauties of the season!!! There are Amaryllis, Christmas Cactus, Holly, Poinsettias, Narcissus-Paper White, and Cyclamen out there to decorate your home for this festive season, and be sure to follow the instructions on the labeling.

Ok, now that we have discussed a few last minute items and concerns, it is time to pull up a chair with a cup of your favorite drink and begin thinking about your 2019 garden adventures.

Article by Dawne Howard, Master Gardener and FCFCDB member

Nature Note for 12/30/2018