This is the "December" page of the "Winter Gardening Chores" guide.
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Winter Gardening Chores  

Last Updated: Apr 11, 2017 URL: Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts

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The LuEsther T. Mertz Library 
The New York Botanical Garden
2900 Southern Blvd.
Bronx, NY 10458


Noteworthy Books on Garden Maintenance and Seasonal Chores

Cover Art
50 High-Impact, Low-Care Garden Plants - Tracy DiSabato-Aust
Call Number: SB404.9 .D57 2009
ISBN: 9780881929508
Publication Date: 2009-01-07

Cover Art
A Northeast Gardener's Year - Lee Reich
Call Number: SB453.2.N92 R45 1992
ISBN: 0201550504
Publication Date: 1991-08-14

Cover Art
The 20-Minute Gardener - T. Christopher; Marty Asher
Call Number: SB453 .C42 1997
ISBN: 0679448144
Publication Date: 1997-01-28

Cover Art
The New Low-Maintenance Garden - Valerie Easton; Jacqueline M. Koch (Photographer)
Call Number: SB473 .E235 2009
ISBN: 1604691662
Publication Date: 2009-11-01

Cover Art
The Organic Lawn Care Manual - Paul Tukey; Nell Newman (Foreword by)
Call Number: SB433 .T74 2007
ISBN: 9781580176552
Publication Date: 2007-01-30


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.

NYBG Garden Navigator

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  • NYBG Garden Navigator
    Use this resource to explore the NYBG grounds, including information about specific plants, bloom times, and garden features.
  • NYBG Garden Guides
    Guides from the Plant Information Office related to specific NYBG gardens, including their history, design, and current plantings.

Winter Gardening Chore Videos


Useful Websites

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