December Garden Checklist
- After your garden has been put to rest, take advantage of a warm spell and work manure or compost into empty flower beds or into your much enjoyed vegetable garden. Working organic matter into the soil during the winter will put you ahead when gardening begins in the spring. Turning gardens in the winter will also kill overwintering insects.
- This is the last call to plant spring flowering bulbs. You may find them at bargain prices because garden centers are trying to get rid of their inventory. Bulbs prefer a deep well drained soil with super phosphate worked into the soil before planting.
- Between now and spring you need to spray fruit trees on a warm day with a dormant oil to control scale and other insects (eggs) which are overwintering on the tree. If you have scale insect problems on ornamentals, such as on euonymus, spray these also. Be sure to read and follow label directions on the dormant oil.
- Lower limbs of young shade trees can be pruned now. Its best to prune up limbs as years pass to about 10 feet off the ground. Remember to cut close to the trunk leaving the bulge called ‘stem collar’. This bulge can be very small on young trees to a few inches in size on large trees. This stem tissue is comprised of very active plant cells which seal off open wounds in a few growing seasons. No pruning sealant is recommended.
- Mulch tender perennials since we have had our first hard frost.
- Keep your Christmas tree fresh with plenty of water.
- Gifts for the gardener abound – from plants to books to gardening tools.
- Keep your poinsettia fresh with even moisture and plenty of light.
- During the dormant season, any plants which need to be moved from one location to another should be transplanted from now through February. Be sure to get as much of the root ball as you can, and plant as quickly as possible. Don’t allow the root system to dry out, or to be exposed to cold temperatures for too long. Don’t forget to water them in, and if natural rainfall doesn’t occur, water every two to three weeks.
- You may prune hollies, cedars, magnolias, and other evergreens lightly this month to obtain foliate for holiday decorating. Be sure to prune carefully, and take some from all over the bush to keep as natural a shape as possible.
- Make sure your ornamental plantings are mulched for the winter. Mulching keeps soil temperature more constant, retains moisture and helps prevent weeds. Besides that, it is more attractive than bare soil. Keep the mulch pulled back from the stem of the plant to help keep rodents away and keep air circulating around the plants. Place mulch two to three inches high throughout the beds and around trees to keep away lawnmowers and weed trimmers.
- There is still time to plant pansies for winter color. Choose strong healthy plants which are in bloom, or have flower buds. Plant them in a sunny bed, fertilize and water and you can be assured of flowers all winter long. Pansies are unique in that they freeze solid, yet defrost when the sun hits them, and they bloom all winter. If you already have pansies planted, be sure to deadhead them periodically to keep them blooming. Fertilize them during periods of warmer weather throughout the winter. Pansies are heavy feeders and respond well to fertilizer.
- Garden tools should be cleaned this time of year. There should be no soil left on them, and they should be oiled a little and stored in a dry place for winter.
- Don’t forget about the birds. During the winter, be sure to keep fresh water and birdseed outside. There are numerous types of birdfeeders and birdseed. One of the best is sunflower seeds.
- If you are purchasing holiday plants or giving houseplants as gifts, be sure to protect the plant during transport home. Be sure that all plants are “sleeved” (wrapped in a paper sleeve, or protected inside a paper bag.) Tropical houseplants can suffer permanent damage even exposed to 10 minutes of freezing temperatures.
For more information on any of the above points, contact the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service at 425-2335.
By Mark Keaton
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture
Media Contact: Mark Keaton
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
3 East 9th St. Mountain Home AR 72653
The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative
action institution. If you require a reasonable accommodation to participate or need
materials in another format, please contact your County Extension office (or other
appropriate office) as soon as possible. Dial 711 for Arkansas Relay.
The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.