December Gardening Chores

 Hopefully by December we will have a hard frost and flower beds can be mulched to keep soil temperatures even. I pile oak and hickory leaves on mine, or let leaves fall where they may.

Hopefully by December we will have a hard frost and flower beds can be mulched to keep soil temperatures even. I pile oak and hickory leaves on mine, or let leaves fall where they may.

December Gardening Chores

The calendar says it’s the end of the year but it doesn’t seem like it yet, leaves are hanging on trees and I’m still sneaking tiny mum bouquets out of my garden.

As soon as a hard frost hits, it will be time to mulch, not before. Mulching maintains the soil at an even temperature. During winter, the point of mulching is to keep plants in hibernation. If you still have leaf piles, move those into flower beds, those will easily make good mulch.

I live in USDA's zone 5b, the growing belt of the US. To mulch trees, make a well around the tree trunk and leave an area the width of a tire between the tree trunk and the mulch. When mulching, don’t pile mulch up to the trunk or you will create an area for diseases. Leaving a little moat around the tree also reduces girdling.

Any broken branches and limbs? Get those trimmed before ice hits, or before someone runs into them visiting for the holidays. You know where they are but people knew to your property are bound to run into them.

Have empty pots, garden carts, rakes leaning against the side of the house? It’s time to clean them off and store them for the season. The rakes, in particular, you don’t want to step on the tines and hit yourself on the side of the head.

Leave the dry flowers for now. Birds will eat the seeds and the dry greenery will provide protection for the young shoots growing at the base of the plant.

Did you plant mums this fall? Remember to water mums every couple of weeks this first year. Once they make it through their first winter, mum roots will become established and won’t require regular watering through winter.

 This is a great month to collect dried flowers for decorative outside wreaths. These gray additions are long-bracted wild indigo branches. (Photos by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

This is a great month to collect dried flowers for decorative outside wreaths. These gray additions are long-bracted wild indigo branches. (Photos by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

If you saved seeds, this is the time to make sure they are marked and stored in a dry, cool place. Some people store them in a refrigerator. I use an old ice cooler in my garage to keep mice from snacking on the bags through winter.

Still have trees you haven’t planted? There’s still time so get them in the ground and water well.  If you are getting a live Christmas tree, dig the hole now so you can pop it in the ground right after Christmas.

Let tap water settle overnight before using on house plants. Tap water can be too cold and may have additives that need to evaporate before being exposed to indoor plants. I fill my recycled milk jugs and let them stand overnight before pouring on inside plants.

Make sure to make notes in your garden diary for next year projects, I seem to remember them this time of year as I am putting things away.

Have bulbs ready to bloom through winter? Paper white narcissus, hyacinths and Amaryllis  are all good choices to bloom when it’s cold outside. The first two can also be permanently planted outside and Amaryllis are repeat bloomers. I love gardening, even in the middle of winter, don't you?

Charlotte