04 Dec DECEMBER GARDEN HAPPENINGS
There’s no denying winter is here — from chilly temps to sudden freezes and snowy weather, December is not exactly the most active gardening month of the year for most of us. But does that hold us back? No way! Now’s the time to brew a cup of tea and focus on the finer points of gardening — because gardening isn’t just an activity, it’s a lifestyle.
DECEMBER GARDEN CHORES BY ZONE:
Zones 3-6: If you planted any trees or shrubs this fall, continue watering them so they get well established over the winter months. And did you harvest and store some veggies from your summer garden? If so, you can enjoy them now — make a pot of stew with the potatoes, carrots, and onions. Water your indoor houseplants and holiday plants, but make sure they don’t sit in water, leading to rot or plant disease. Speaking of houseplants, this is a perfect time to repot them — take them out of their old containers and place them in slightly larger ones with fresh soil.
Take a stroll through your winter garden and take some clippings from your pine trees or berry branches to create a botanical centerpiece for your table. Sharpen your tools; you’ll need them to be at the ready in a few months. And always remember to armchair garden — get inspired with garden books and magazines, and pour through catalogues to make plans for the upcoming growing season.
Zones 7-8: These zones are iffy areas, meaning they are usually fairly mild but can experience sudden cold snaps that include hard freezes or even occasional snow. Because of that, gardeners in these zones need to be prepared at a moment’s notice to cover and protect their plants. Have freeze cloth on hand as well as a tall pile of old sheets and lightweight blankets, but remember to remove the covers the next day if they weather heats up again. Prune trees and shrubs to remove any unwanted or unhealthy growth, and throw down some annual ryegrass to over-seed your lawn if you like to look at some green during the winter.
Check your local recommendations for what to plant in your veggie and herb garden — you should be good to plant all sorts of lettuces and greens. This is also a great time for preparing a wildflower garden — read up on the seeds recommended for your area and the best times to sow the seed for a gorgeous spring display. Plant winter-blooming annuals like snapdragons, dianthus, ornamental cabbages and kales, pansies, violas, and cyclamen, as well as spring-blooming bulbs like tulips, daffodils, alliums, and muscari. Check on your mulch thickness — if you see any bare soil, cover it up with 2-3” of shredded hardwood mulch to retain moisture and insulate plant roots from chilly temps. Start planning for next spring’s garden by looking though seed catalogues and making notes for new plants to try.
Zones 9-11: Ah, the warm climates! You lucky dogs. To you all, harsh winter weather is when you are forced to don a windbreaker. But we’re not bitter; we’re just living vicariously through you. If you live in any of these mild zones, you can literally garden year-round, so your planting list is a long one. Get those winter annuals, spring-blooming bulbs, herbs, and veggies in the ground or in your container plantings. Keep on the lookout for lawn diseases like brown patch, which are active when soil temps are cooler. Inspect your houseplants for pests, and repot those whose roots are becoming cramped.
Perform a soil test for any area of your garden where plants underperform — contact your local county extension office to arrange for or get information about where to send your sample. Use your fallen and raked leaves as a valuable carbon ingredient in your compost pile, or use them as mulch in your garden. Prune off any diseased or unwanted growth on established trees and shrubs. And although it’s rare that these warmer areas experience hard freezes, even temperatures below 45 degrees can damage some tropicals or succulents, so be ready to cover up and protect any susceptible plants.