Here are a few things gardeners need to consider in December:
After your garden has been put to rest, take advantage of a warm spell and work manure or compost into empty flowerbeds or into a much-enjoyed vegetable garden. Working organic matter into the soil during the winter will put you ahead when gardening begins in the spring. Turning gardens in the winter also will kill overwintering insects.
This is the last call to plant spring flowering bulbs. You may find them at bargain prices, because garden centers are trying to get rid of inventory. Bulbs prefer a deep, well-drained soil with super phosphate worked into the soil before planting.
Between now and spring you need to spray fruit trees on a warm day with a dormant oil to control scale and other insects (eggs) which are overwintering on the tree. If you have scale-insect problems on ornamentals, such as on euonymus, spray these also. Be sure to read and follow label directions on the dormant oil.
Seed catalogs will be arriving soon. These make great winter reading and a good way to keep up with what’s new for the home garden.
Lower limbs of young shade trees can be pruned now. Its best to prune up limbs to about 10 feet off the ground as years pass. Remember to cut close to the trunk leaving the bulge called “stem collar.” This bulge can be very small on young trees to a few inches in size on large trees. This stem tissue is comprised of very active plant cells which seal off open wounds in a few growing seasons. No pruning sealant is recommended.
When shopping for the perfect Christmas gift for the gardener on your list, don’t forget the wide selection of gardening related items. They include plants — houseplants and shrubbery — as well as trees and bulbs. Gardening equipment, from shovels and pruning shears, to mini-tillers and lawnmowers, all would be welcome gifts. Then there are bird feeders, fountains and statuary, wind chimes and sundials, containers, and hoses. No gardener ever has enough books, or better yet, a subscription to a gardening magazine.
During the dormant season, any plants that need to be moved from one location to another should be transplanted from now through February. Dig the new hole before digging the plant. Be sure to get as much of the root ball as you can, and plant as quickly as possible. Don’t allow the root system to dry out or to be exposed to cold temperatures for too long. Don’t forget to water them in, and if natural rainfall doesn’t occur, water every two to three weeks.
Make sure ornamental plantings are mulched for the winter. Mulching keeps soil temperature more constant retains moisture and helps prevent weeds. Besides, it is more attractive than bare soil. Keep the mulch pulled back from the stem of the plant to help keep rodents away and keep air circulating around the plants. Place mulch 2-3 inches high throughout the beds and around trees to keep away lawnmowers and weed trimmers.
There still is time to plant pansies for winter color. Choose strong healthy plants, which are in bloom or have flower buds. Plant them in a sunny bed, fertilize and water, and you can be assured of flowers all winter long. Pansies are unique in that they freeze solid, yet defrost when the sun hits them, and they bloom all winter. If you already have pansies planted, be sure to deadhead them periodically to keep them blooming. Fertilize them during periods of warmer weather throughout the winter. Pansies are heavy feeders and respond well to fertilizer.
Garden tools should be cleaned and no soil left on them. They should be oiled a little and stored in a dry place for winter.
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