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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

I purchased some pre-chilled hyacinths and tulips for forcing but there were no directions with them. Does this mean I don’t have to chill them in the refrigerator, and will they just bloom in the house any time during the winter? The last batch of bulbs became moldy in the refrigerator.

I would like to start seeds under lights. When is the best time to start flower seeds? The seed packet always says to sow a number of weeks before the last frost. When is the last frost?

Is there a best time to plant tulips? I see them at the garden centers in late summer but I am afraid that it is too early to plant them. If I wait too long, I might forget all about them.

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