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DECEMBER: What to Do in the Garden


In the Edible Garden

  • Cover strawberries with straw after the ground freezes.
  • Create a journal to record what worked in ‘07. Be specific about varieties that performed well. If possible, record soil amendments to track how beds perform next year.
  • Seed catalogues begin arriving late this month. If you’re not on a list, here are two you can’t live without: Burpee and Park Seed. Both are free. For a Midwest source, order from Jung Seed of Randolph, Wis. Their $3 fee is refundable with an order.
  • Organize leftover seeds, discard packets that are empty or nearly so.

In the Ornamental Garden

  • Plan a backyard wildlife habitat.
  • Protect newly planted broadleaf evergreens such as azaleas, boxwood and hollies with a burlap screen. Set screen stakes in ground before the ground freezes.
  • Protect newly planted trees from gnawing by rabbits and mice. Put a loose cylinder of hardware cloth or poultry wire around the trunk base.
  • Winterize all power equipment before storage.
  • Move stone statuary indoors to prevent frost cracks.
  • Feed the birds.
  • Mulch to keep cold in once soil freezes. This includes roses and perennials. Use chicken wire cages to contain shredded leaves in windy locations.
  • Continue to plant bulbs until the soil freezes solid.
  • Remove leaves from gutters and roof surfaces to avoid ice dams later. A blower works well on dry leaves.

In the Indoor Garden

  • Reduce or eliminate fertilizer for houseplants until spring.
  • Keep succulents and cacti on the dry side.Try indoor worm composting. Great for kids!
  • Make a Christmas candle arrangement.
  • Amaryllis stems bend toward light. Turn the plant frequently to keep it growing straight.
  • Keep poinsettias in a bright, non-drafty location. Check moisture frequently; do not allow to dry out.
  • Punch holes for drainage in decorative foil used to wrap pots of flowering plants.
  • If you use live mistletoe, keep it away from pets and children-all parts are poisonous.

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questions

After a summer outside, my clivia has returned indoors. Last year it had only one puny flower. What treatment should I give it over winter to bring it into bloom?

What does it take to make a climbing hydrangea flower? Ours was planted 3 years ago and is growing energetically. It’s in a protected nook near the patio and gets very little direct sunlight, but doesn’t act sun starved. We gave it a shot of slow release fertilizer on planting, and once since. Somewhat inadvertently it gets plenty of water, since the hose spigot is nearby and leaks, but drainage does not seem to be the problem. It now fully occupies an 8-foot trellis but shows no interest in flowering. Is it youth, lack of sun, too much or too little fertilizer, bugs, lack of pruning or what? When do these plants bloom and what conditions do they like?

I am going to be planting five dwarf fruit trees; two ‘Bartlett’ pears, one ‘Cresthaven’ peach, and two ‘Honeycrisp’ apples. Could you give me some feedback on them?

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