December Gardening Tasks

Winter SeasonWhat chores are gardening blogs suggesting for December? Here’s an extension service that recommends knocking the snow off your low-growing evergreen shrubs. Really? I’ve lived in some places where that would be an endless task — not to mention unnecessary. If you live in the mountainous West, or along the Canadian border, or where the lake effect really has an effect you probably just consider any snow damage your evergreens suffer “natural pruning.” That same web site suggests — tell this to your kids — you “minimize traffic on frozen lawn to prevent damage,” unless of course, it’s packed with snow. Then you can park your car on it (just kidding… actually foot traffic on frozen, and we mean hard-frozen, grass will damage it.). Another website suggests you spend December concentrating on you houseplants. Sure, this is a good time of year to give them a leaf cleaning and to make sure they don’t dry out in the low-humidity of furnace heat. But let’s face it. You have houseplants? You’re caring for them all year long. Another blog suggests now’s the time to start saving kitty litter. We won’t even supply the link to that one. But remember that safely composting your pet’s waste requires temperatures higher than the home compost bin or heap achieve.

Sure, there’s still time for pruning and cleaning up your strawberry patch if it’s not already buried in snow. But most likely, you’ve already done those things. If you live down south, or “way down south” as we like to refer to it, you can start planting peas and some of the early greens. But for most of us? That task is months away.

So here’s some advice: why not take the month off? That’s the traditional thing to do just before the solstice. Why do you think they cram all those holidays into the same few weeks? You don’t have to completely ignore your garden. Now’s a good time to curl up with a blanket and a cup of warm tea and review your gardening journal. You have been keeping a gardening journal, haven’t you? Go back and see how those early plantings did, what type of tomato grew best, what kind tasted best. When was the last frost? When was the first? What kind of window does that give you for planting those long growing season peppers or squash that you’ve coveted. Browse through the pictures you took — you took pictures to put in your journal, didn’t you? — and marvel at the progress as May turned to June, July and August. We’re already beginning to get seed catalogs in the mail. Sitting down with your journal and your favorite catalog is a great way to get the dreaming started. Visions of sugar plums? We’re dreaming of early and plentiful green harvests, and heirloom tomatoes like we’ve never grown before. Our white Christmas arrives this weekend.

Journals suitable for gardeners make great gifts. Some are specifically made for the purpose, but really any old date book will do as long as it has plenty of room. Making your own journal can be detailed and complicated or as easy as putting a name on the cover of a three-ring binder. The more artistic among us can custom decorate a notebook, turning it in to a gift journal for friends or family. Kids love to do this. And if you haven’t got yourself a journal for next year yet, why not put it on your list. You’ve been good, right?

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