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GardenSMART :: December To Do List In The Garden

December To Do List In The Garden

By Therese Ciesinski, In The Dirt Editor

Issuing a gardening to-do list in December seems almost like punishment. The garden has pretty much wound down, and your attention has likely turned to indoor pursuits and enjoying the season’s celebrations. You’re probably thinking you have enough to do at this happy but hectic time, without having to worry about the garden, too.

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And for the most part, you would be right. With the exception of feeding the birds, making sure outside water taps are shut off, and watering new plants, skipping many of the chores on this list won’t cause lasting harm. Do the ones that you enjoy, or that affect the plants you value most, and pass on the ones that feel like a drag. A few tasks can even wait until January, especially if the weather stays mild.

Taking a break from the work can allow us to appreciate the garden all the more when we come back to it. Happy Holidays to you and yours!

“What good is the warmth of summer without the cold of winter to give it sweetness?” ~Author Unknown


  • Plant flowering bulbs indoors for bloom in January and March.
  • Check houseplants for insect pests such as spider mites, aphids, scale and mealy bugs, and treat if necessary.
  • Don’t let houseplant foliage touch freezing windowpanes.
  • Check any lifted and stored outdoor bulbs for rot.
  • Enjoy the seed catalogs that are coming in the mail. Even if you don’t intend to start seeds indoors, they contain valuable growing and harvesting information. Many now even have recipes!
  • Bringing holiday plants like poinsettias and Christmas cactus home from the store? Make sure they are well wrapped for the trips to and from the car. Indoor plants can be injured by even short exposure to freezing air.


  • Keep bird feeders stocked and water sources from freezing.
  • Is the water to your outside taps turned off? Drain and store hoses and insulate around taps if necessary.
  • If the ground isn’t frozen, deeply water newly planted (within the last year) trees and shrubs.
  • Mulch around plants once the ground freezes to keep them from heaving due to freeze and thaw cycles.
  • Lightly snip evergreens to use in decorations indoors and out.
  • Layer leaves and kitchen scraps onto your winter compost pile, but don’t turn it.
  • Tie back loose vines that might whip in the wind.
  • Use the branches from your live Christmas tree to cover the crowns of vulnerable perennials, either those that might be on the border of your hardiness zone, or ones that struggled and didn’t perform well for whatever reason.
  • If the ground isn’t frozen, you can still plant spring-blooming bulbs.
  • Check that outdoor containers, whether empty or filled with soil, are stored or otherwise where they can’t freeze and break.
  • In areas where there isn’t yet snow cover, December is a good time to look for gaps in the landscape, opportunities to add a shrub, tree, or perennial.
  • In zones 7 and up, sow cover crops such as annual rye grass, barley, or fava beans.
  • In warm areas with few freezes, plant winter vegetables such as cabbage, spinach, broccoli and lettuce.
  • Also in warm areas, protect citrus from frosts with burlap or fabric covers.


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