GARDENING IN DECEMBER ... BY GLADYS JEURINK
If you have
plants that have been in the house since October, and especially if they
have large leaves, it is time for a bath.
If they are too heavy to move, you can use a wet sponge and wipe
off both sides to let them breathe easier.
It is better not to use the sprays and products that make the
leaves shiny. In most cases
they contain an oil which will clog the pores of the leaves.
I have heard some people use milk for washing. But I imagine that
would also be a “clogger”. For the ones small enough, I put them in
the tub or sink and use the spray.
Usually I crunch up foil to cover the top of the pot to save the
Seeds of your
Christmas oranges or grapefruit should be planted before they dry out
and will soon give you small, good looking plants.
If you are planning on starting Seed Geraniums or Prairie
Gentians (Eustoma), they need to be started soon in damp soil in a warm
spot. They both are slow to germinate and slow to start growing.
I find it works better to use starting or planting mix to prevent
damping off from killing the seedlings. Damping off is a fungous waiting
in garden soil to rot the tiny stem at the soil line.
You can use a plastic bag over the top of your garden to keep the
soil from drying out. This
year I am saving the take out salad containers from the grocery store as
their lids will keep the moisture in.
I have a heating pad under lights in the basement to encourage
them to start.
amaryllis bulbs that you brought in earlier.
There will always be at least one early bulb.
If so, repot the bulb, soak the soil, and move the bulb and its
new soil into a sunny, warm spot. Your Christmas cactus should have buds
by this time and needs to be watered on a regular schedule. Do not
overwater as they rot very easy. My
Christmas and Thanksgiving cactus usually bloom about the same time. Do
not fertilize Amaryllis and Christmas Cactus until they get done
This last year
I have had more rabbits than usual and they ate the bark off some my
smaller trees. Luckily they did not get all the way around. Among their
victims was my Ginkgo tree. So this winter it’s trunk is wrapped to
higher than tall rabbits standing on their back feet can reach. I will
take it off next spring, and need to watch for snow banks that will let
them reach higher.
If you have
some plants too tender for our area that are stored somewhere, they must
be checked for moisture. I have an insulated garage where I have cactus
(no water the entire winter), a Norfolk Island Pine, an Angel Trumpet
that I cut back more than halfway, and a Lavender. For the Lavender I
will keep the soil barely moist. There
are also 2 Bougainvillea, and an Allamande vine.
By this time we
should have had enough freezing to start putting compost on some of the
plants to keep them at an even cold temperature until spring.
I have several that are listed for hardiness zone 6 so I place
cages around them and fill with compost.
Compost doesn’t mat down as badly as big leaves. I cut the
Butterfly Bush back, caged it, and filled the cage. The new perennials I
started this fall don’t have their roots down tight yet so I cover
them. My “smothering”
piles of leaves are picked up, go through the chipper, and then I can
use them as a mulch. These can be put anywhere to hold moisture in and
keep soil temperature steady. I say hold the temperature steady as more
plants are killed by the freezing and thawing than by the cold weather.
Mulch over our tender plants does not keep the ground warm but keeps it
cold until spring. My Black Mondo grass is spreading slowly by runners
into a nice patch.
With the snow,
the birds may be having a hard time finding food and water.
The bird bath heater should go in and the various foods set out.
I feed at three levels:
The first level
The hanging feeders full of
Niger seeds for the Goldfinch;
The second hanging feeders
are full of sunflower hearts for the Chickadees, Finch, and Siskins;
The suet feeders have been
filled for the Hairy and DownyWoodpeckers.
A second group of feeders are on the picnic table.
These have wire floors so they can drain, and in them goes a
mixed feed for the Blue Jays, Cardinals, and Sparrows.
The third level of feeders are my pathways and patio floor for
the Cardinals, Blue Jays, Sparrows, Morning Doves, and Juncos. This food
is again a mix of millet, sunflower hearts, cracked corn, and peanuts.
I have counted over forty different species of birds eating out
there over the years, as well as a number of squirrels.
Rabbits also like some of the bird food and I hope this keeps
them away from my tree trunks and new plants as they come up in the
This fall I was
crawling on my hands and knees getting weeds out from under my rose
bushes. My back was hurting, but as I was getting up, I found I could
stick my nose into a just opening red rose. When I got into the house to
rest and stretch out in the big easy chair, a small, fuzzy, warm dog
hopped up, curls up in my lap and goes to sleep, knowing he is safe and
that food and water are waiting when he wakes up. It can’t get much better than this, can it? I hope you get
as much pleasure from your garden, pets, and friends as I do?