December Garden Chores

Frosty mornings and clear skies are some of my favorite things about December, and Christmas of course.  Because December is such a busy month with family and holiday prep, garden chores are usually about the last thing folks are thinking about.  However, when you need a little garden therapy its good to know there are still some things to be done outside.  I’ve made a list of things I usually aim for this month.

 

In the Kitchen Garden:

Continue cutting fresh greens for smoothies, salads or a quick sauté side dish for dinner.

Keep the row covers on for protection on these chilly nights.  My covers will add about 4 degrees per layer…I always double or triple up on cool clear nights.

Coldframes may need a quilt over the top for nighttime when it gets below freezing.

Pull any weeds while they are little– it’s amazing that weeds still like to sneak into the garden even in the winter.

Stored Veggies – check on the produce in storage and throw out any thing that is getting soft or showing signs of rot.

 

In the Perennial and Herb Garden:

On warmer days collect seeds, cut back, trim and mulch plants – Right after Christmas is a great time to hire college kids to mulch your garden.

Continue harvesting cool season herbs.  Rosemary, sage, thyme, cilantro, parsley are some that are a tasty edition to holiday recipes and soups.

Trim back old hellebore growth so the new blooms that start coming up will really stand out.

If you haven’t planted any bulbs yet, now is a great time and many bulbs are on sale.

 

For the Birds:

Keep the birdfeeders full for our feathered friends.

Have some fresh water in a freeze proof bird bath.

If you have a fresh cut Christmas tree – set it out in the yard after Christmas, with popcorn and cranberry strings to provide food and shelter for the birds.

Keep the water fresh and unfrozen for the chickens.

 

Oh by the way…

As long as the ground is unfrozen it is a good time to plant trees.

Order seeds for you and some extra for stocking stuffers.

After Christmas plant your live Christmas tree outside and water well.

Merry Christmas!!!

February To Do

February in the Upper South is the beginning of the gardening season.  If you haven’t ordered your seeds for 2010, now is the time.  Dust off the cold frame, clean out old pots to recycle for starting seed and sanitize with a bleach wash of 1 part bleach to 9 parts water.

In the kitchen garden, plant English peas and onion sets as soon as the ground can be worked.  Mid to late February plant spinach and seed potatoes.  Start salad greens, parsley, cilantro and dill in a cold frame or hoop house.

In a sunny window or greenhouse start herb, vegetable and flower seeds that will be transplanted into the garden in 8 – 10 weeks.

Take cuttings of scented geraniums, rosemary, sage, begonias and other plants you’ve been wintering over indoors.

Most shrubs and trees are still dormant and can be easily pruned.  It is a good time to spray with dormant oil to smother eggs of problem insects.

Cut back Monkey grass, liriope (with a line-trimmer) and ornamental grasses before new growth starts.  Try an electric hedge trimmer to save time.

Force blooms of Winter jasmine, Pussy willow, Forsythia, Quince and Spirea (when buds plump) by placing cuttings in a vase of water to bring a little garden inside.

Winter is a good time to re-organize the garden shed or garage.  Clean up tools if you didn’t have time in the fall. Throw out or repair broken tools, water wands, hoses and sprayers.

House plants keep you healthy by cleaning the air so don’t forget them as you daydream of spring.  Give your indoor plants some TLC with a gentle tepid shower to clean the leaves and avoid bug infestation, plenty of sunlight, fertilize when needed and preen away any dead or dying leaves.

January Garden Chores

  • January is a wonderful time to get comfortable in your favorite chair with a cup of herb tea, a stack of garden books, catalogs or laptop and a pad of paper to make some notes.  Use this time to evaluate your current garden and make plans for the New Year.
  • In the kitchen garden, continue harvesting lettuce, radish, swiss chard, arugula, broccoli raab, parsley, cilantro, kale and other cool season veggies and herbs that are growing under row covers or in your cold frame or hoop house.  Cover empty raised beds with black plastic to start warming the soil for early spring planting.
  • Cut back liriope (with a line-trimmer) and ornamental grasses before new growth starts.  Try an electric hedge trimmer to save time.
  • Grow paper whites and pots of wheat grass indoors to exercise your green thumb.  Force blooms of Winter jasmine or Pussy willow (when buds plump) by placing cuttings in a vase of water to bring a little garden inside.
  • Winter is a good time to re-organize the garden shed or garage.  Clean up tools if you didn’t have time in the fall. Throw out or repair broken tools, water wands, hoses and sprayers.
  • Order or buy seeds, seed starting kits or trays and a seed starting medium mix to get a head start on the gardening season.
  • House plants keep you healthy by cleaning the air so don’t forget them as you daydream of spring.  Give your indoor plants some TLC with a gentle tepid shower to clean the leaves and avoid bug infestation, plenty of sunlight, fertilize when needed and preen away any dead or dying leaves.

Garden Chores to do in November

November brings frosty nights but many warm, sunny, beautiful days which makes our friends and neighbors in the Upper South thankful for the opportunity to finish up garden tasks before the holiday season is upon us.

 If your annual pots are made of terra cotta (or other material that may freeze and break) it is a good time to clean them out and put them away for winter.  Take out the soil and put it in the garden, compost, fill a hole in the yard that the dog dug, or save it in a large container or garbage bag for the spring.   Wash the pots out and dip them in a 9-1 bleach solution to kill any hitch-hiking critters or diseases.

 While you are at it why not empty any concrete or pottery bird baths and tip them upside down before they freeze and crack.

 Disinfect bird feeders and keep them full for our feathered friends.

 There is still time to plant edible containers of kale, chard (try Bright lights) or other spicy greens that are pretty and tasty.

 Collect seeds, put them in a paper envelope and label and date them; store in the refrigerator in an airtight container.

 Dig mums that have finished their container life directly in the garden.

 Take a soil test and apply lime if needed.

 Remove leaves from the lawn, use a rake or a blower and put them in the compost or directly in the kitchen garden. I like to top off my raised beds with fall leaves, add water then cover the bed with plastic or landscape fabric to help generate heat to help the rotting process, keep weeds down and warm up the beds for early spring crops. Or, chop leaves up with a mulching mower to improve lawn.

 Plant or transplant trees and shrubs

 Don’t let up on weeds in the kitchen garden or perennial beds and borders.

Mulch (chopped up leaves work well) to protect plants and keep weeds down.

 Use a cold frame or hoop type house in the kitchen garden to start and extend cool season vegetables and herbs.

Garden To Do List for March

Spring is bursting forth in the Upper South region with daffodil, crocus and hyacinth bulbs blooming. Helebores continue to show out while trees like the Redbud and Star Magnolia along with flowering shrubs help to welcome the re-birth of the garden, a beautiful time to work outside.

In the kitchen garden its time to plant cool season vegetables; sow seeds of beets, carrots, peas, kale, swiss chard, mustard, salad greens, turnips, kohlrabi, radishes, parley(soak seeds overnight), dill, cilantro and nasturtium directly into garden. Plant seed potatoes, onion sets, scallions, cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower.

March is a good time to plant asparagus crowns, blueberry, strawberries, grapes and horseradish – all available at your local nurseries and TSC stores.

Start seeds of annual flowers, herbs and warm season vegetables like tomatoes and peppers indoors in a sunny window or in the greenhouse.

Dig and divide perennials and add compost to flower beds and borders.

Boxwoods respond well to pruning in March, be sure to reach in and open up areas for sun and air circulation.