It's hard to believe we have already hit December, especially given how little snow and cold those of us in the southern half of Minnesota have seen. As I write this, the high today is predicted to hit 50 degrees. December is one of the quietest months for northern gardeners, but there are still a few things to keep plant people busy. Here are five garden chores for December:
Set out some holiday greenery. If you have not already, consider putting out a pot of greens, pine cones, red twig dogwood or whatever else suits your fancy to add a little cheer to the neighborhood. Short on funds: Try scavenging from your yard for greens and dried flowers. Short on time: Our Discount Partners create stunning holiday containers, windowboxes and more. Contact one near you for a beautiful porch pot. While you are at it, how about buying a poinsettia or a big, beautiful amaryllis to bloom around the New Year.
Buy seeds. Wait a minute! Isn't this a January chore? It can be, but since the start of the pandemic there have been intermittent seed shortage. We're hopeful that won't be the case in 2022. But, if you have a particular tomato you love to grow or an annual that is tops on your list, consider buying your seeds a bit earlier than usual and adding seed buying to your garden chores for December.
Plan next year's garden. We don't have any snow at the moment, so take some time and walk around your yard thinking about what you want to do next year. Take a few measurements and photos, if your renovation plans are big. This is a great time for dreaming, and if you have big ideas and aren't sure how to implement them, consider taking the Sustainable Landscape Design Basics class that MSHS is offering in March (the January class is already sold out!) This class is taught by Julie Weisenhorn and Jim Calkins, two U of M pros, and covers all you need to know about creating a sustainable design. You'll even have a chance to get feedback on your own design for a deck, front entry or other small garden space.
Keep an eye on your houseplants. With the heat blazing and dry house air abundant, your houseplants may feel stressed. Don't overdo the watering and avoid fertilizing most houseplants in winter, but check the leaves and branches for signs of scale, mites or other pests and diseases. If you spot something suspicious, put the plant in quarantine, and research the best methods for dealing with the pest or disease. This university website has lots of information on houseplant diseases and pests. Tending to houseplants will be one of your most important garden chores for December and the rest of winter.
Stock up on your winter garden reading. It could be a long winter, so now is a great time to stock up on some books to enjoy during the down time. A few we have been reading and enjoying lately include Digging and Delighted: How to Live Your Best Gardening Life by Carol Michel, a humorous, heart-warming and honest guide to gardening; Winterland: Create a Beautiful Garden for Every Season by Maine-based garden designer Cathy Rees; or really dig into a misunderstood pollinator with Heather Holm's book, Wasps: Their Biology, Diversity and Role as Beneficial Insects and Native Plant Pollinators. If you can wait until March to get it, you can pre-order Northern Gardener contributor Meg Cowden's forth-coming book on getting the most from your vegetable garden through succession planting. The book is titled Plant Grow Harvest Repeat: Grow a Bounty of Vegetable, Fruits and Flowers by Mastering the Art of Succession Planting.
One last garden chore for December is to rest and relax. One of the joys of our northern climate is that the weather gives us permission to slow down. Enjoy that gift.
Enjoy valuable northern gardening tips all year long—join the hort!