A GROWING CONCERN: 13 chores to do in December

WHILE IT IS December, it is not winter.

There is plenty of fall yard work yet to do.

Here are 13 jobs to do during the last month of the year.

1. Seasonal holiday display.

Let me emphasize again the fusion that is Christmas lights and ornamental horticulture.

Landscape and holiday lights go hand-in-hand. The colors, flashes, style and design brighten your yard just as the flowers of summer do.

A well-done display brings favorable responses from those who admire your creation, and it is a great way to thumb your nose at the cold and gray days.

2. Lift the leaves.

Now that all the leaves are gone from your neighbors’ trees (and yours) it is time to get them all picked up.

Look around your yard for wet, rotting leaves laying on perennials or ground covers. Those leaves are wet, flat and will slowly smother any plants they lay on.

Molds, mildews and funguses hitch a ride on wet leaves this time of year. Remove leaves from atop your ornamentals right away.

3. Mow your lawn.

Your grass grows slowly all year here on the Peninsula, so December is a great time to mow it as low as possible.

This will definitely lessen the impact that heavy rain and dampness will have on your grass.

If you fertilized like you were supposed to in August or September, then December is now the time for the winter nutrient feed.

Your lawn would also benefit greatly from a lime treatment now. And let’s not forget spreading your wood ash out over the grass at a rate of 5 pounds per 100 square feet.

4. Plant bulbs.

The weather is ideal (not too warm for pre-seasonal emergence). The rain waters bulbs naturally, and spring bulbs are discounted now for a quick sale.

5. Plant.

December is still your month to plant just about everything: roses, trees, bushes, shrubs, ground covers, perennials, grasses and even herbs prefer being planted now.

The weather and temperature combine to give the plant a slow steady adjustment to its new home.

6. Deadhead spring blooming bushes.

If for some bizarre reason you still have old, brown hard stick-like flower heads on your lilacs, rhododendrons or azaleas, remove them.

These plants are developing their buds from now until spring. Old woody flower heads will impede development or kill off that growth spurt.

7. Wicked weed.

Our weather is the perfect ground for weeds. On the Peninsula, many species never go dormant and even more spread out their root system massively in the next few months.

Cultivate all bare soil around perennials. Dig out and spray cracks in the driveway, curb and walkways. Edge your lawn, as the grasses’ rhizomes are already growing underneath the soil into your landscaping.

8. Indoor bulbs.

“Indoor forcing bulbs” are the perfect stocking stuffers. Who wouldn’t want paper whites, hyacinths, even tulips or miniature daffodils blooming in their house throughout the next several gray months?

Be sure to get some amaryllis bulbs. They are the most cherished gifts I give.

9. Roses are still red.

Even with my house at 994 feet elevation, I am admiring my roses filled with blooms.

December is the time to stop cutting the flowers. Just pull off the petals as they fade and let the hip develop.

Do not prune. Instead strip off with your hand old leaves, leaving behind only the new, small quarter-sized or less leaves.

Pick up all old leaves from around the base of the plant (this is where disease will harbor until next year) and top dress with a thick (4 to 6 inches) covering of organic mulch.

10. Pick on the perennials.

Check all your perennials. Many plants are still in bloom or are covered with viable leaves.

As your perennials die back, cut back. But do not cut back until they are dead or dormant.

11. Lime.

Lime is so important to your lawn and ornamental program. Most plants and orchard trees like alkaline soils. We have acidic soils here on the Peninsula.

Lime takes time and moisture to affect soil pH. Winter gives us both. Use lime at a rate of 30 to 50 pounds per 1,000 feet if you have sandy soil, 50 to 60 pounds on loamy soils and 70 to 80 pounds per 1,000 feet on clay soils.

Do not lime azaleas, rhododendrons, camellias, ever-greens or lavender.

12. Get ready to prune heavy and hard.

Wait on heavy pruning until the January work list. Do lightly prune evergreens for your seasonal pots and display, but for now do an inventory.

Check your pruners and loppers; sharpen, grease and repair them. Then make a list of the trees and bushes that are going to “get it” in January.

13. Make the naughty or nice list.

It is the end of the year so make some notes on which plants were good and which ones were bad.

Always, there are things that don’t live up to expectations. Now is the time to define the good and the bad so we know what to do for next year.

And remember the Northwest Flower and Garden show is coming to Seattle from Feb. 7-11 and our luxury, all expenses paid, wine and dine bus is already 25 percent booked up.

Get on board this fabulous garden bus; call me at 360-417-1639 for details.


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 news@peninsuladailynews.com (subject line: Andrew May).

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