A GROWING CONCERN: A dozen ways to fill winter days

HERE IT IS, December already. Santa is compiling his list to see who has been naughty or nice, and Olympic Peninsula residents and guests are slipping and sliding on the ice skating rink in Port Angeles.

As dark now descends upon us so do our garden chores — so here is your December list.

1. Don’t disappoint your garden pals. Two weeks ago, you got a great gift list for gardeners, and that didn’t even include all of your own magnificent ideas. Go and give our local plant industry a much-needed boost and buy a plethora of creative gifts. The results will not only be better gardening, but also a stimulated industry with improved offerings for spring.

2. End of optimum time. The next 10 days afford everyone the ideal confluence of high soil temperatures, good ground moisture and adequate time before spring to establish root systems. On top of that, the trees, shrubs, perennials and rose sales just keep getting better. Even if you have bought several new items already, go get and plant something to make me proud.

3. Be a mulch maniac. Here are the greatest chores you can do in December to improve your soil fertility, structure, nutrient level along with controlling weeds and protecting plants from the varying conditions of winter: mulch, mulch, mulch. With weeds, smother the little evil monsters with a few inches of mulch to kill them and return their nutritional elements back into the ground.

4. Remove signs of fall. By now the leaves are falling everywhere. They need to be picked up completely. Within the next 150 days being wet, dark, damp, cool and humid, these leaves will rot away anything they lay on, grass included. Rake and pick them up, but be especially concerned about there dispersal into your ornamentals. A few rotten leaves can ruin a great many plants. And by all means, compost them and use them as part of a mulch.

5. Continue rose care. Flower harvest by now has ceased and rotten flower head removal is ongoing. Starting in December, begin cleaning up all old leaves laying around, for they harbor all of next year’s diseases. As we enter the last days of December, strip away all large leaves to coax your roses into a few months of well-deserved rest. A good mulching now is important.

6. Lawn and mower care. If you have not done so, cut your lawn very low in order to decrease disease and habitat. If it is slightly shaggy, do it again, then winterize your mower. You will not be using it for a while, so change the oil, give it a new spark plug, sharpen the blade and treat the gas with winterizing additives or drain it completely for fresh gas in the spring.

7. Secure the implements of destruction. Tis the season to be sharpened. Get all your pruning tools, saws, ladders, etc., and inspect, clean, lube, sharpen and tighten them. Get them in mint condition by replacing old blades, bolts and loose joints. Make sure your tools are safe and the collection is complete. If not, repair them or put your desires on your Christmas gift list.

8. Those exceptional evergreens. The weather is right for pruning your conifers. Doing so now will have them in peak shape for spring. It will also get some of the huge pruning workload done early. It will also give you a pile of wonderfully scented holiday greens. Save other pruning jobs in till spring 2022.

9. Continue perennial care. Never forget that more perennials are destroyed by early clean up and cut back then anything else. You will see that many of your perennials are still green and lush. As the various plant parts die, remove them. This will be an ongoing process throughout the yard for the entire month of December.

10. Beware of weeds. The invasion of the garden snatchers has begun again. Falling temperatures will all but stop germination of weeds, but you will see tens of thousands of new little weeds everywhere right now. Pull them, smother them, cultivate or till them, but just don’t sit on your haunches. Be especially concerned with ones with taproots.

11. Indoor bulbs. Bring your garden indoors and still enjoy growing blooms. Go out and buy some amaryllis, paperwhites or pre-chilled bulbs like hyacinths. Nothing has the ability to bring so much joy so easily as growing your own flowers, in your own house, during the winter.

12. Seek out catalogs soon, we will begin to plot and plan our 2022 gardens. Get as many ideas, options, prices and items as possible. Find those little postcards and order as many different kinds of seed, fruit, supply and plant catalogs as you possibly can.

But above everything else… stay well all!


Andrew May is a freelance writer and 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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