December Garden Tips

 

Time to prune

 

This time of year is perfect for starting a little light pruning of deciduous trees and shrubs since the leaves have fallen and you can see the plant shape easily. It's better to wait until late winter or early spring before bud break to do any heavy pruning.

 

Don't prune perennials

 

Although you can cut back perennials to a few inches from the ground now, leaving the foliage through the winter tends to trap snow and provide good insulation for the plants. Foliage and seedheads add winter interest to the garden as well as food for animals and birds.

 

Check for freshness when choosing a tree

 

When choosing a Christmas tree, look for healthy, green needles with few brown ones. Run a branch through your hand and feel if the needles are still flexible. Lift the trunk a few inches and tap it on the ground. The tree may drop a few brown needles, but a fresh tree won't drop many green ones.

 

Use only water for your live Christmas tree

 

Water is still the best preservative for Christmas trees. Make sure trees have a fresh cut and always keep the tree stand basin filled with water. If the tree absorbs all the water and the basin is empty, you should ideally make a fresh cut on the tree. Aspirin, pennies, sugar, and bleach have not been proven to prolong the life.

 

Vent cold frames

 

Even though the weather may be cold, remember to vent cold frames on sunny days. The sun can build up heat quickly in a frame, and the tender plants can cook. Insulate the sides with straw bales or bags of leaves. On very cold nights, be ready with blankets for the glass.

 

Don't store firewood indoors

 

Don't be tempted to store firewood in the house. Many different types of insects spend their winter in wood, and we don't want to bring them into the house to wander around. Leave the wood outdoors until you are ready to build a fire. Don't treat firewood with pesticides.

 

Start your amaryllis

 

Bring your resting amaryllis bulbs into warmth and light to produce the spectacular blossoms. Remove about an inch of soil and replace with new soil. Begin watering, and be sure to turn your pot 1/4 turn every time you water to keep the stalk straight. Keep a stake handy

 

Try your hand at a terrarium

 

And for fun, set up a terrarium. You can fill it with orchids, bromeliads, and button ferns. Any kind of glass container can make a terrarium. If the glass

becomes clouded with condensation, simply remove the cover and let things dry slightly. Place near a window with southern exposure but not in direct sun.

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