It may seem like there is no gardening to do during the holiday season, but in reality there is still plenty to keep enthusiastic gardeners busy even when the weather outside is frightful.
Gardening in December means…
Pruning for Natural Decorations
Pruning berry-laden twigs, lush pine boughs and plump seed stalks can yield beautiful accessories for natural centerpieces, flower arrangements, mantle swags and other decorations for the holiday season. Choose the best trimmings for decorating, or add a unique touch by accessorizing them with holiday bows or metallic paint.
Continuing to Compost
Your compost pile needs care year-round, and turning the pile in early December will help keep it well mixed and speed decomposition. Add to the pile throughout the month, including adding fireplace ashes and similar materials. In very cold regions, covering the pile with an old rug or tarp can insulate the outer layers and keep the pile from getting too wet from snow or rain.
Mulching Trees and Shrubs
After the first hard frost, add a layer of mulch around trees and shrubs to insulate the roots and make the plant more tolerant of winter's stresses. A 2-3 inch layer is sufficient, but do not pile the mulch right up next to the trunk or bark, which could encourage insects. When snow falls deep and fluffy, it can be piled gently on top of plants for additional insulation, so long as no salt is included, which would damage the plants.
Choosing a Potted Christmas Tree
Many Christmas trees come in large pots, allowing them to be replanted after the holiday season. If your landscape could use another evergreen tree, consider a potted tree for your holiday decorations. Choose a healthy tree suitable to your climate and soil type, and take care to keep it well-watered and in good condition until it can be planted.
Checking on Stored Bulbs
If you unearthed delicate bulbs to save them for the spring or are trying to force them for winter blooms, check on them in December and ensure they are not drying out too extensively. Look for any signs of rot that could infect multiple bulbs, and keep the storage conditions ideal to keep the bulbs healthy.
Securing Climbing Plants
After climbing flowers and vines have gone dormant, it is time to wrap or tie them so they are not damaged in winter. Snow and ice buildup can snap fragile stems, particularly at the top of the plants where there is more new growth. Use burlap strips or similar cloths to gently tie the plants, without wrapping them too tightly. Before tying, prune any damaged or diseased sections.
Starting an Indoor Garden
You can garden all winter long if you start indoor flowers and herbs in early December. Choose a sunny window and try your hand at growing different herbs, such as thyme, rosemary or basil, or else opt for easy-to-grow indoor flowers such as paperwhites and amaryllis. Gardeners who enjoy a greater challenge may want to try nurturing Christmas poinsettias so they last long after the holidays, or even training a bonsai into an artistic living sculpture.
Checking for Seminars
Many garden centers offer educational seminars year-round, and there may be a wide variety of classes to choose from in December. Even if no classes are available this month, next year's schedule may be available and it is time to register for sessions before they are fully booked. Look for refresher courses as well as opportunities to expand your gardening skills.
Browse seed catalogs in December to get your order in early for new seeds to use in spring. While old favorites are always reliable, don't be afraid to try out a few new seeds as well. If there are more seeds to try than you want to buy, consider setting up a seed exchange with a local gardening club of green-thumbed buddy to split packets and try even more.
Giving Garden-Themed Gifts
Garden items can be great gifts for everyone on your holiday shopping list. Other gardeners may appreciate gifts of tools or novelties, and delicious garden produce – a jar of homemade preserves, salsas or sauces, for example – can be tasty gifts for anyone. Dried flowers make beautiful gift accents, and seeds or bulbs can also be shared as gifts.
Recycling the Christmas Tree
When it is time to take down the Christmas tree, it ought to be recycled. Trees can be put against a shed or garage to make an instant brush pile and wind break to help wildlife, or trees can be chopped into suitable wood for fires or building bird feeders. Old Christmas trees can also be turned into mulch to add to the garden, and in coastal communities, trees may be used to minimize winter sand dune erosion.
No matter how busy the holiday season may be, gardeners can always make time for tasks to satisfy their green thumbs!