The days grow short as we move into the last of the 2018 gardening season. This is the time when gardeners like to relax, sip some tea while warming our feet by the fire, and reflect on our gardening successes and near misses of the season past. But gardening activity doesn't come to a complete halt as there are a few things to do in December. Here are my six gardening tasks for closing out 2018 “strong”, and to ensure that our plants prosper in the New Year:
- Watch closely for flying fungus gnats in the house and greenhouses, as they kill houseplants. Treat with Bonide Systemic Granules at first sign of trouble.
- Reduce water to indoor plants when their leaves grow pale and drop.
- During shorter winter days plants prefer being moved to a brighter room or sunny windowsill.
- Cacti and succulents need a period of dormancy through winter, so keep them barely moist and do not fertilize. Resume watering and food in March.
- Plant amaryllis bulbs.
- Cyclamens prefer a cool room and being watered from below.
- Poinsettias should be kept in a warm room and away from drafts so they last as long as possible.
- If Christmas cacti fail to set buds the room may be too warm or the plant is receiving too much artificial light.
- Grass continues to grow during warm winters. Be sure your mower blades are set at 1.5 - 2 inches high.
- Re-cut all edges for a crisp clean appearance.
- Once you have completed the last cut drain mower of fuel to prevent unwanted issues next spring. Be sure mower is clean and dry before storing.
- Consider servicing the mower and sharpening the blades at this time.
- Prevent leaves from covering the lawn and blocking out light and air to grass.
- Avoid walking on lawns on frosty mornings as that can damage grass.
- You can apply Watters 7-4-4 'All Purpose Plant Food' to a lawn. It is high in potassium and phosphorous which helps to harden your grass and build a strong root system.
- Check for waterlogging and rectify this condition now.
#3 IN THE GARDEN
- Remove fallen leaves from borders and ponds.
- Raise containers by using ‘pot feet’ to prevent water logging.
- Improve clay soils by incorporating organic matter like composted mulch and/or barnyard manure.
- Move trees and shrubs that are growing in undesirable places. If they have been growing for several years be sure to remove a large enough root ball to avoid root disturbance.
- Protect not-so-hardy plants with protective mulch.
- Deer, rabbits, and squirrels can be a problem in winter months. Use tree guards to prevent bark from being gnawed.
- Remove the last of spent crops, then clean and disinfect the greenhouse.
- In addition to a heater, insulation may be needed to keep the structure frost-free.
- Regularly inspect plants for pests and diseases.
- Invest in Max/Min thermometer for accurate monitoring of temperatures.
- Don’t forget that ventilation may be required during warm winter days.
- To discourage fungal diseases, try not to wet leaves when watering.
- Remove faded flowers and yellowing or dead leaves to prevent development of diseases.
#5 VEGETABLE GARDEN
- Remove plant debris to help prevent the spread of disease.
- Turn over empty beds and add organic mulch and manure to prepare soil for planting next year.
- Plant new fruit trees.
- Stake any Brussels sprouts stalks that are leggy and vulnerable to wind.
- Tie up new tiers on espaliers.
- Prune grape vines, brambles, and apple, pear, and peach trees.
- Prune currants and gooseberries.
- Continue to harvest turnips, swedes, parsnips, celery, Brussels sprouts, and beets.
- Parsnips may be left in the ground until needed.
- Regularly check stored apples and persimmons.
#6 Odds & Ends
- The 2019 seeds have arrived at the garden center! So, purchase seeds after looking through catalogs for garden planning ideas for next season.
- Spread fallen leaves on the compost pile for rotting down into leaf mold. Shredding or mowing the leaves will speed up the composting process.
- Dig new garden spaces for next year; this will expose pest larvae and eggs to birds and frost.
- Make sure all winter protection is at hand or in place to shelter plants should the worst possible winter weather become a reality.
Until next week, I'll be helping gardening friends here at Watters Garden Center.