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Winter Gardening Chores: December

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Winter Gardening Chores: December*

Juniperus; photo courtesy of Flickr cc/ Julie A Brown


  • Use garden notes, photos and sketches to assess areas that need plants
  • Determine types and quantities of plants to order
  • Begin to order plants from seed and nursery catalogues

Chores and Maintenance:

  • After ground freezes, mulch perennials and bulb planting beds. The mulch will prevent heaving during the alternating freeze/ thaw cycle
  • Tie and support evergreen shrubs to avoid breakage from snow
  • Continue to provide burlap windbreaks for boxwood and broad-leaved evergreens until the ground freezes
  • Complete protection of trees from mouse damage with wire, mesh, trunk guards
  • Continue protection of shrubs from deer with burlap or netting
  • Avoid the use of salt to melt snow as it is toxic to most plants; use sawdust, sand or cat litter
  • Keep bird feeders filled throughout the winter

Pruning/ Fertilizing:

  • Prune evergreen branches to use in holiday decorating
  • Continue to rejuvenate overgrown shrubs as weather permits, until new growth begins in spring


  • Keep newly purchased Christmas trees in a bucket of water in a cool place
  • Set up Christmas tree in a reservoir stand. Cut on a slant about 1" above existing cut for optimum water absorption
  • Be sure to keep reservoir filled and place Christmas tree in coolest part of the room
  • Sterilize the tree stand with a solution of boiling water, vinegar and household bleach after use
  • When buying houseplants in winter, be sure to wrap them up well for the trip home; this prevents the foliage from freezing and protects tropicals from drafts
  • Give houseplants as much light as possible as days grow shorter
  • Hold off on fertilizing indoor plants until spring
  • Provide houseplants with increased humidity; mist often or place the houseplant over a tray of moist pebbles
  • Continue to plant prepared bulbs for indoor forcing
  • As houseplants grow more slowly in winter, increase the time between waterings but do not cut back on the amount of water
  • On frigid nights, protect indoor plants from freezing; move them away from the glass or cover glass with thick newspaper or cardboard
  • Clean leaves of large and smooth-leaved houseplants like dracaena, philodendron, ficus etc.

*These gardening tips are applicable for an average year in the southeastern New York region: USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 6a and 6b, which include New York City, Northern New Jersey, Rockland County, Westchester County, Southern Connecticut, and parts of Long Island. Plant hardiness zones refer to geographic areas where the growing season of plants is determined by the time of killing frosts in the spring and fall. Even within zones, climatic factors such as altitude, proximity to water, wind exposure, winter sun exposure and snow cover contribute to the existence of different "microclimates" and can influence plant adaptability.

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