Garden Tasks For December

By A. Goldman and C. StClair

To ease into the non-outdoor gardening months, treat yourself to Paperwhite or Amaryllis bulbs.  They are easy, gratifying bulbs that only require a pot with good drainage, a sunny location, and sometimes something to support the tall foliage.

If you brought houseplants back in from outside this fall, start scouting for pests like spider mites, mealybugs, and scale. If caught early, pests can often be managed by simple hand removal.  Those fuzzy mealybugs can be tough but can be removed with a cotton swab dipped in isopropyl alcohol.  Houseplants are not growing strongly with the shorter days so they need less fertilizer and probably less water. Although dry winter air can cause stress – misting the foliage helps. Try to position plants so heat vents do not blow directly on them.

Take some time to organize all the planting pots, stakes and other items that accumulated over the season. Take an inventory of any leftover fertilizer, potting soil, soil amendments, plant tags and other highly-used garden items.  Make sure fertilizer bags are closed. Excess moisture can cause some fertilizers to clump and degrade.

Don’t forget to winterize hoses, hose nozzles and any gas powered equipment. It’s also a good time to clean and sharpen tools so they are ready for action next year.

Survey your trees and shrubs. Remove any damaged branches that may split further during a winter storm. Make sure evergreens do not go into winter dehydrated. Evaluate whether you need deer protection.

Remember to use trunk protectors on newly planted trees.  A smaller diameter trunk is susceptible to buck rub, which can kill a young tree. Young trees can also be girdled by animals feeding on bark in the winter. Make sure there is adequate mulch around the base but not up against the trunk….a donut not a volcano. Shredded leaves can work great for this.

If at all possible, provide clean, unfrozen water for wildlife throughout the winter.

We could all use some extra cheer this year, so add some evergreens, colored twigs, ribbons, and cones to your outdoor planters for added interest through the winter. 

Here are a few posts from the past that might also be useful:

Tasks for the November Garden

Preventing Deer Damage in the Winter Gifts for the Gardener

Gifts for the Gardener

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