A GROWING CONCERN: Remember the dos and don’ts of winter gardening

BECAUSE WE ALL are going over our lists and checking them twice, I thought I would chime in with a list of my own.

As we move from fall (Wednesday is the last full day of fall) to winter, there are many things one should do now (winter begins Thursday at 8:38 a.m.)

However, our extremely mild winter (especially as plants see it) also dictates there are many things one should not do – even though garden books or experts say to do them now.

Our weather is unique to the North Olympic Peninsula paradise, and it confuses many plants and bushes, so they do not know if it is late fall or early spring.

Day length, temperature and moisture all blur into one, confounding plants, which at a core level are very dumb and easy to fool.

So because December is the month of good and bad lists, here your dos and don’ts to end the year:

Do clean up all the leaves in and around perennials, bushes and the yard.

Don’t let leaves mat down and destroy your precious lawn or English-style garden with mold and rot.

Do gather all the yard debris and pile up the compost.

Do let Mother Nature wet and decompose this essential garden gold so you can top dress it all on your cherished plants next year.

Do prune away any storm damage to limbs or branches on any plants when it occurs.

Do prune evergreens and use them for holiday décor.

Don’t head your plants when you should be thinning as you prune.

Don’t touch your lavender plants with pruners, but do ensure all old flower spikes are removed before rot harms the plant.

Do keep lavender plants and all other ornamentals well mulched.

Don’t let weeds start getting a good root system going.

Do smother plants right now with a few inches of nice compost or mulch.

Don’t let the rains fool you — out where thick tree canopies, overhangs or your eaves block out the rain.

Do keep these isolated spots moist with your watering can, because you don’t want to let those nice new bulbs dry out and die.

Don’t let your watering system, hoses or faucets freeze. Do bring them inside and air blow those lines or install frost-resistant spigots.

Do fertilize your lawn every three months, which does include winter — just don’t use a heavy nitrogen feed or summer blend.

Don’t mow your lawn too high now. Do keep the setting on it’s lowest possible cut without scalping until April.

Don’t lose this time and forget all your wonderful plans and ideas.

Do make last-minute notes of criticisms, plans and desires.

Don’t miss the perfect opportunity to get some real good garden gifts for those plans. Remember your loved ones will buy those expensive Felco for you at Christmas but they won’t if you don’t let them know what you want.

Don’t forget how great all of December is for planting trees, scrubs, perennials, grass seed, ground covers and bulbs.

Do save yourself some money and find them on sale now.

Do start getting on every possible garden mailing list. You don’t want to be left in the dark on all the new plant verities, tools or latest biological controls that hit the market this coming season.

Do the holiday season up right; celebrate the wonders in time-honored horticultural traditions.

Don’t be without the lovely scents and aromas of the season.

Do get real wreathes, garland and trees, and be generous with the mistletoe.

If you don’t like the mess of a cut tree, then do get a potted live one to enhance the value of your property, and do make a New Year’s tradition of planting that tree when it’s done sheltering the gifts in the house.

Don’t be left out on the light, do hang just one strand — even a 50 light strand — in your window. If nothing else, do it for the young folks who just marvel at this time of year.

And please do join a garden club, a community group or your friends and plan some creative horticulture project for next year.

Don’t let a few minor setbacks stop all of us on the Peninsula from slowly, but surely, creating a gorgeous place that all of our out-of-town friends will find excuses to visit.

Do be a part of lifting everyone’s attitude (including your own) in a most positive way.

And finally, do have a great holiday season.


Andrew May is an ornamental horticulturist who dreams of having Clallam and Jefferson counties nationally recognized as “Flower Peninsula USA.” Send him questions c/o Peninsula Daily News, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362, or email [email protected] (subject line: Andrew May).

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