With the arrival of winter Dec. 21, there are still a few chores to complete in the garden. There’s also some care for the indoor holiday plants. Then it will be time to take a break and start planning your garden for spring.

December gardening tips include:

• When shopping for the perfect Christmas gift for the gardener on your list, don’t forget the wide selection of gardening-related items. They can include plants — houseplants, perennials, trees and bulbs — and gardening equipment, from shovels and pruning shears, to mini-tillers and lawnmowers. Also, don’t overlook bird feeders, fountains and statuary, wind chimes and sundials, containers, and hoses. And remember, no gardener ever has too many books.

• To prolong the life of your poinsettia, keep it evenly moist and protect it from being chilled or subjected to drafts. Keep it in full sunlight in a cool area.

• If the buds drop and the stems shrivel on your Christmas cactus, check for root injury caused by dry soil.

• During the dormant season, any plants that need to be moved from one location to another should be transplanted from now through February. Be sure to get as much of the root ball as you can, and plant as quickly as possible. Don’t allow the root system to dry out, or to be exposed to cold temperatures for too long. Remember to water them in, and if natural rainfall doesn’t occur, water every two to three weeks.

• You may prune hollies, cedars, magnolias, and other evergreens lightly this month to obtain foliage for holiday decorating. Be sure to prune carefully, and take some from all over the bush to keep as natural a shape as possible.

• Garden tools should be cleaned before storing for winter. Remove all soil and rub them with a little oil.

• Don’t forget the birds. During winter, keep fresh water and birdseed outside. There are numerous types of bird feeders and birdseed. One of the best is sunflower seeds.

• If you are purchasing holiday plants, protect them during transport home. All plants should be “sleeved” (wrapped in a paper sleeve or protected inside a paper bag). Tropical houseplants can suffer permanent damage even exposed to 10 minutes of freezing temperatures.

 

Lance Kirkpatrick is the Sebastian County Cooperative Extension agent. Have questions about lawn, garden or other horticulture related issues? The Sebastian County Extension Service can help with offices in Barling and Greenwood. Call (479) 484-7737 for answers to horticulture questions.