In December our minds are probably more on preparing for the holidays than working in the garden. If you need a break from the holiday rush, use these tips to guide you in the garden:
Trees, Shrubs and Flowers
- Do not prune azaleas, rhododendrons and other spring flowering shrubs because they have already set their buds for next year’s blooms. If you feel these shrubs do need to be pruned, however, you can prune them now, but you will sacrifice next spring flowers.
- To keep you poinsettia looking good during the holidays remember to place it in a location with bright light but not direct sunlight. Check soil daily to prevent drying out and do not over water. Avoid placing near cold drafts, heat vents, and appliances.
- Don’t forget to fertilize and deadhead pansies to keep them flowering during the winter. Use a general all-purpose fertilizer like 10-10-10 about every 3 to 4 weeks. Pansies do not need to be heavily fertilized.
- After the holidays, consider recycling your Christmas tree instead of tossing it in the trash. Check to see if there are local programs for recycling your Christmas tree. Christmas trees can also be submerged in ponds to be a fish feeding refuge.
- Are you missing getting out and playing in the dirt during the winter? Take leaf cuttings of your favorite houseplants, like African violets, and enjoy watching them root and grow. They could even make good gifts to share later in the year.
- Do not overwater houseplants. They are semi-dormant this time of year and do not need as much water.
- Take hardwood cuttings from deciduous trees and shrubs; dip cut stems in rooting hormone powder, and plant in equal parts sand and vermiculite; keep moist.
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Fruit, Vegetables and Herbs
- Order seed catalogs now so you can start making your garden plans and know what seeds to order in January.
- Remove all mummified fruit from fruit trees and rake up and destroy those on the ground. Also, rake and dispose of apple and cherry leaves. Good sanitation practices reduce re-infestation of insects and diseases the following season.
- If you soil test results say your soil is acidic, your garden, landscape or lawn could benefit from an application of lime. Because lime takes a long time to react with the soil, winter applications help prepare for spring planting.
- Continue fall cleanup from last month; remove dead plant debris from landscape and gardens. This can help prevent diseases from overwintering and being a problem again next season.
- These cold winter days are a good time to observe the bare spots of your garden and begin to plan on what to plant next season.
Jessica Strickland is an Agriculture Extension Agent, specializing in horticulture for North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Wayne County.