The constant gardener: Sussex gardens in December


The December calendar is as follows:

First Week

• Collect pinecones, old bird nests, any remaining seed heads, etc. to be used in making wreaths and other holiday decorations.

• Spray seed heads and dried flowers with hair spray to keep them intact.

• Clean and sanitize (mixture of 1 part bleach and 10 parts water can be used) emptied seed flats before storing so that they will be ready when needed in the early spring.

• Make herbal presents like herb vinegars and/or potpourri for the holidays.

• Select your tree early and tag it while visiting your local Christmas tree farm.

• Change the oil and do routine maintenance on your outdoor power equipment, such as rotary tillers and lawn mowers. Remember to recycle this used oil.

Second Week

• Order your 2010 seed catalogs.

• Check stored dahlia tubers and gladiolus corms; if they are sprouting, move to a cooler location. If they appear to be shriveling, rewrap them using a ventilated plastic bag.

If there are signs of molding, change their environment; this is usually a result of moisture conditions.

• Mulch azaleas, rhododendrons and camellias thoroughly after the ground freezes. These acid-loving plants prefer acid-loving materials like oak leaves or pine needles. If you do not have either of these, any mixture of dried leaves will do.

• Scout your landscape for the small, buff or yellowish velvet gypsy moth egg cases attached to trees, stones, walls, logs and other outdoor objects, including outdoor household articles. Pick them off and destroy.

• Feed birds continually throughout the winter once you start feeding them. Birds need feed, water and cover (discarded Christmas trees are great for providing bird shelter).

Third Week

• Prevent fires by placing Christmas trees away from heater vents, fireplaces, television sets and anything else that can cause the needles to dry out. In addition, be sure to keep your tree watered the entire time it is in your home.

• Make evergreen arrangements with branches that have been trimmed from Christmas trees.

• Prune fruit trees anytime this winter. Keep in mind, it is easier on the tree if the temperature is 45o and above.

Last Week

• Check around trunks of trees and bases of large shrubs for rodent damage.

• Fertilize peach and apple trees anytime after the leaves drop and before spring growth.

• Give special attention to water, light, and feeding requirements of houseplants.

• Recycle your holiday tree; it has several good uses. The branches can be placed over spring flowering bulb beds and/or perennial flower beds to help prevent heaving damage caused by the ground freezing and thawing, and, as mentioned above, placed outside next to a bird feeder, it provides shelter for birds.

• Buy yourself a new houseplant if you are suffering from the end-of-the-year blahs. Because of the light, water and feeding requirements, determine where it is going to be placed before you buy.

Have a happy and healthy holiday season.