Are you wondering what you should be doing in the garden in December? Here are five key things you can do to care for your vegetable garden when the days grow short and cold.
How did we get to December already? I feel like it wasn’t so long ago that we were planting our spring garden. The summer has come and gone and fall swept through quickly and landed us right in the middle of winter. Is your garden prepared for winter? Here are five ways you can care for your garden in December.
1. Mulch your garden beds.
If you haven’t laid a grown cover or already prepared your soil for the winter, make sure to cover the garden beds. You can do this with straw, cardboard, pine needles or shredded leaves. In the spring, we use mulch to prevent weeds from taking over and to protect plants by keeping the soil warm. In the winter it is the opposite. Mulching keeps the soil cold. You want to keep the soil cold so that any plants you still have, that are dormant, don’t start growing again on sunny days. You want them to stay dormant.
2. Cover delicate plants.
If you are still growing some of your fall crops, make sure to cover them on cold winter nights. Garden fabric, or a frost blanket can be the difference between having a long winter garden survive and the end of one when night temperatures dip.
3. Prune blueberry bushes in late december.
Late December is a great time to prune blueberry bushes. The plant is dormant at that time and is easier to manage. Pruning allows better air circulation, makes it possible for more light to reach inner branches and encourages the production of new fruit in the spring.
4. Feed the birds.
Food is scarce this time of year. Now is a great time to attract birds to your garden. Birds are great pollinators and they eat a lot of garden pests. You’re going to want them visiting your garden in the spring and summer so now is a great time to help them start a routine of heading to your garden often.
5. Clean up the garden.
Winter is a great time to square away your garden. You aren’t hampered with the daily garden duties you were all spring and summer. The weeds have died off and there isn’t as much to do. On a nice day, head down to the garden and prepare it for the spring. Do you have a bird bath in your garden like we do? Now is a good time to clean it out. They can get moldy quickly in the summer. You can buy a bird bath water warmer, or de-icer, to keep supplying water for the birds that visit your garden.
Once you have those things all taken care of, pull up a seat in front of the fire and warm back up while reading seed catalogues. This is one of my favorite things to do in December. You can order free seed catalogues from many seed companies. It’s exciting to try growing new crops. Have a look at what can be shipped to your area and make a plan to try something new. Pay attention to what can grow in your area. Knowing your hardiness zone is important. Not only does that tell you when your first and last frost dates are, but that will also let you know when to plant what. You can also contact your local extension office to find out the same information.
While you’re dreaming of what to plant in the coming growing season, also think about what tools need to be replaced or upgraded. I could really use better pruning shears. Do you need new gardening gloves or would you like a gardening bag to carry all your supplies down to the garden? You can add some of these items to your holiday wish list or simply make a list so you can start looking for these items early on before it gets busing in the garden again.
There are so many things you can still be doing in the garden, from recovering from the previous growing season, to preparing for the next one. These are just a few suggestions.