♦ Yews, juniper, holly, boxwood, broad-leaf evergreens and many deciduous trees, roses, and shrubs can be propagated this month. Insert evergreen cuttings in vermiculite or sand in a cool greenhouse or tie bundles of the cuttings together and bury in a cold frame. Remove in early spring and plant in a nursery bed.
♦ December is a good month to replace overgrown shrubs — don’t fertilize until early spring.
♦ Fertilize pansies and other winter annuals with a fertilizer containing nitrate nitrogen. The higher the ratio of nitrate nitrogen the better the fertilizer.
♦ Finish winter clean-up by pruning deciduous perennials 3-4 inches from the ground. Leaving part of the stem helps mark the location and size of the plant.
♦ When it is too cold to work in the yard, work on putting your landscape on paper; mark existing plants, site conditions (wet, dry, sunny, shade) then make a list of what you want to add.
Fruits and Vegetables
♦ Pick mummified fruit off trees and rake up leaves under fruit trees to remove insects and diseases.
♦ December is a good month to construct raised vegetable beds. Any length is fine but it’s good to build them no wider than 30-40 inches for easy access and to minimize compacting soil.
♦ Apply a thin layer of pine straw, mulch or a row cover to protect winter veggies from extreme cold.
♦ Top dress unused areas of veggie beds with 2-4 inches of composted manure or shredded leaf composte.
♦ Fruit trees can be pruned at any time during the winter provided the temperature is above 45°.
♦ Get asparagus beds ready to plant when weather and soil conditions permit. The planting site should be in areas that will not interfere with cultivation of other crops. Bed preparation should include heavy applications of compost or animal manure plus 25 pounds or 6-12-12 per 1000 square feet applied broadcast. Till deeply and smooth soil surface. Set asparagus crowns any time in late December or early January when soil is not frozen.
♦ Keep all indoor plants away from drafts and direct heat sources — inexpensive plastic draft hoods help redirect heat away from plants.
♦ Keep checking house plants for insect infestation. Isolate and treat infected plants immediately. Winterize your lawnmower, tiller and weed-eater. Drain out gas and replace the oil with fresh oil. Remove the oil filter and either clean or replace it. Check all nuts and bolts to be sure they haven’t vibrated loose. Mower blades and tiller tines can be removed and sharpened. Inspect wheels, belts and other moving parts. Replace them if needed.
♦ To keep your shears and loppers in good shape for next year, clean them with mineral spirits or Lysol bathroom tile cleaner. Adjust the tension screw and give them a good sharpening. Be sure to use a broad file while sharpening. Tools sharpened by a power grinder will over heat and lose their tempering, making the metal likely to chip or break.
♦ Clean garden hand tools with liquid detergent and dry thoroughly. Blades of shovels and hoes can be sharpened with a file. Apply a light coat of household oil. Treat all wood handles with a coat of linseed oil.
♦ Drain all garden hoses and sprinklers and check for leaks. Repair or replace damaged sections. Replace any washer if necessary. Do not store hoses in direct sunlight.
♦ Clean all pressure sprayers and dusters before putting them away for the winter. Make sure they are functioning properly prior to storage.
♦ Clean and sanitize all stakes and trellises before putting them up for the winter.
♦ After Christmas, your tree can be moved outside and redecorated for the birds. Anchor the tree in a bucket full of damp sand. Hang strings of popcorn and cranberries and add strings of peanuts (in the shell). Apples, oranges, leftover breads and cakes, even peanut butter cookies, can be hung on the boughs, but don’t use food containing chocolate, as it is poisonous to some animals. For best results, push the edible ornaments well into the tree; things that swing may scare birds.