Gardening This Weekend: December 14, 2023

Here are your mid-December gardening responsibilities. Take a quick glance at the list to see which apply to your landscape or garden.

All spring-flowering bulbs as soon as you can. Soils are cool enough now to plant tulips and Dutch hyacinths.
Cold-hardy annuals. Pansies and pinks rate at the top, as do ornamental cabbage and kale. Snapdragons come next, then for the southern half of the state, stocks, cyclamen, wallflowers, sweet alyssum and Iceland poppies.
Remember to include bulbs and winter annuals in decorative containers for your entryway or patio. If it turns unusually cold you can bring them into the garage for a night or two for protection.
Transplant trees and shrubs while they are dormant now through mid-February.

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Mistletoe from tree branches as soon as you see it. Leaving it in place for more than one year will allow it to grow much larger very quickly.
Shrubs to do light shaping. It’s still best to save major reshaping for another three or four weeks.
If lawn is still ragged and covered in tree leaves, make one last mowing with bagger to tidy things up. Put the trimmings into the compost or use them directly as mulch. They’re too valuable to waste, plus the landfills don’t want them.

Houseplants once per month with diluted liquid plant food. You’re merely trying to sustain them, not to encourage vigorous new growth during the dark days of winter.
Apply water-soluble, high-phosphate root-stimulator plant food to help newly transplanted trees and shrubs get established.
Ryegrass and fescue turf with all-nitrogen, slow-release food sometime in next week or so (preferably during a warm spell). Water immediately after application. These grasses grow in cooler weather. Next feeding will come in late February.

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Houseplants for scale insects and mealy bugs. These are difficult to eliminate. It’s usually easiest to address them with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol. Even then you’ll have to stay after them.
Turn compost monthly to keep microbes working actively. Cover it with plastic to soak up the sun’s warmth, again to speed up the decay.
Buy frost cloth, measure, and pre-cut it. Keep it handy in case of extreme cold. You can actually leave tender plants covered for several weeks without fear of harm to them in the process. Air, water and even sunlight can penetrate the lightweight material.

Posted by Neil Sperry
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