Gardening This Weekend: December 5, 2019
Trying to stay ahead of the game? Here are some of our prime goals as we look into the eyes of December.
• Winter color from pansies, violas, pinks, snapdragons, ornamental cabbage and kale, sweet alyssum, stocks, ornamental Swiss chard, cyclamen (require protection below 28 F) and other cool-season bloomers. Plant tender types in pots so you can move them into protection if you’re in a colder area. Let your certified nursery professional guide you.
• Tulips and Dutch hyacinths that have been “pre-chilling” in the refrigerator at 45 degrees for the past 6-8 weeks can soon be planted. Soils will have cooled sufficiently by a week or two from now. In case you don’t see the suggestions, plant the bulbs 2-3 times as deep as they are tall and fairly close together for best show. Daffodils and grape hyacinths can be planted now. They do not require the pre-chilling.
• Erratic growth and damaged branches from shrubs and trees. Be aware that some types of deciduous tree and shrubs held onto their leaves even after the first freeze. I’ve seen that with crape myrtles, Japanese maples and several other types. It’s because the first freeze caught them before their leaves started to turn from green to fall shades. Don’t worry about them. Those leaves will eventually fall, too.
• Old growth and dried stalks from perennials to tidy up for winter. Pile shredded tree leaves over them to lessen crops of winter weeds, also to moderate rates of freezing and thawing.
• Mow lawn one final time to remove last of fallen leaves. I guess it’s just me, but it seems like we’ve had more leaves this year than ever before! Mowing will also eliminate many of the rank broadleafed winter weeds.
• Pansies and other winter annuals with water-soluble, high-nitrogen plant food to promote vigorous growth during winter warm spells.
• Compost with ammonium sulfate granules, one cup per cubic yard of compost every 4 to 8 weeks. Turn and mix pile as you include the fertilizer. Keep pile warm and moist by covering with black polyethylene plastic film.
ON THE LOOKOUT
• Houseplants for signs of population explosions of scale, mealy bugs and white flies. These pests have no natural predators when we move plants indoors.
• Cover winter annuals and other tender vegetation with lightweight frost cloth from a local independent retail garden center or hardware store when extreme cold is expected. Do not use plastic film. It heats up too quickly in morning sun.