December Gardening Chores

A rake on top of some dead fallen leaves.

It’s cold outside, and the last thing you are thinking about is your lawn or garden. There are, however, some chores that need to be done in December.

Lawns:

  • You should be able to take a break from the lawn for a while. This would be a good time to get the mower serviced and ready for next season.

Ornamentals:

  • Trees and shrubs can still be planted any time the soil is not frozen or too muddy.
  • If possible, before bringing a Christmas tree indoors, give it a good shake and even a good cleaning with the garden hose to remove pollen and hitchhiking insects.
  • Keep a living tree indoors no longer than 10 days. Then take it out and plant it in the landscape as soon as possible.
  • To enjoy the poinsettia as long as possible, give it very little direct sunlight, keep it away from heat vents and cold drafts, and water regularly.
  • Keep good pruning practices in mind when cutting holiday greenery. Make clean cuts at branch angles or leaf nodes, and keep an eye on the shape of the plant.

Fruits:

  • Grape vines can be pruned any time during the dormant season. Do some pruning now if you want to use vines for wreath making.
  • The strawberry bed can be mulched with straw when nights are regularly falling below freezing.

Vegetables:

  • Parsnips, turnips, beets and carrots can still be dug if the soil has not frozen.
  • Lettuce and Swiss chard can be kept going through much of the winter by covering with row cover fabric or constructing a cloche (mini-greenhouse) over the bed.
  • Monitor greenhouses, cloches and cold frames daily. Temperatures heat up quickly on a sunny day.

Other:

  • Use some down time to clean, sharpen, oil and repair garden tools and equipment.
  • Along with the holiday greetings, the garden catalogs will be arriving in the mail. Start flagging your wish list pages for spring orders.

Recycling Leaves:

It seems such a waste to take leaves to the curb or burn them.

Shredded leaves can be used as informal mulch in the flower bed or natural area. Put some over the vegetable garden to protect the soil during the winter and turn them into the soil in spring. If you don’t have a leaf shredder, mow over them with the lawn mower and use the bagger to collect them.

Dry leaves can be turned into wonderful compost if mixed with green material such as grass clippings and kitchen scraps. The compost will work faster if the leaves are shredded, but whole leaves will work as well.