THE LIGHTS ARE up at the Winter Ice Village, the ice is good and frozen, and the leftover turkey is all but used up.
It is December.
So here we are, only a few weeks until Kris Kringle takes the reindeer and his sleigh out for the annual global spin.
It is also only a few weeks until champagne is popped, glasses are raised and resolutions abound as the new year is heralded in.
We are indeed in the holiday season, and we only have a few weeks left until winter break.
So with all that activity just on the horizon, how about a little potpourri of things to do for the house and garden?
Light it up
Come on, everyone.
I hope the third time is the charm.
I am asking, begging and pleading to have a majority of households string one strand of lights around a door, window or bush.
You all see the displays popping up around your neighborhood.
Only those of you who do not enjoy the festive and uplifting mood lights deliver, who adore the dark — only those folks are exempt.
The rest of you join in and light up our Peninsula with illuminated cheer.
It makes a huge difference.
Don’t leaf it alone
Clean up those autumn leaves and use them as fill for your compost.
Shred them up and use the byproduct as a soil amendment — whatever you do, get those leaves out.
Get them out of the drainage, off your plants and away from your perennials.
Do not let them lie on the walkways where they become a slimy, wet accident just looking for you to slip and break your hip.
This is it.
The weather is absolutely conducive for planting, and I have told you this before.
Grass seed, trees, bushes, shrubs, vines and even bulbs can and should be planted this month.
In fact, just this past week, I planted all on this list, even spring bulbs, because now is the ideal time and most of these items are discounted 30 percent or more.
One of the oldest and most time-tested methods for improving your flower and vegetable garden soil is to sow “cover crops.”
Be it legumes, rye or vegetables, a cover crop now will keep bare soil in place all winter long.
Then in early, early spring, you till this green manure into the soil, which greatly improves its texture and structure.
This in turn enhances natural soil fertility.
Through thick and thin
Winter is the time when on the Peninsula we experience high winds, ice and snow.
All these conditions conspire with each other to damage your precious plants.
Now is the perfect time to prune out the thick branches, thin fruit trees, remove crossover branches, take out any damaged limbs.
Do so before mayhem visits your yard and tears down plants.
Black ice, heavy frost and snow all lurk around every pathway and driveway just waiting to bring you down.
However, many of the commercial de-icers with their heavy salt makeup cause dreadful consequences for your plants next year.
First, shovel or sweep off areas immediately before foot and vehicle traffic turns the snow to ice.
Second, use sand or even fertilizer as a de-icer, both of which actually benefit the soil and plants.
And third, apply gypsum around the soil edges of all areas where you will apply those nasty de-icers.
Gypsum will not only help buffer their harmful effects, but it helps improve soil structure by breaking up clay particles — a win-win situation.
Heavy mulch (a layer of 6 to 8 inches) is almost magical in its benefits and now is the exact time to apply.
Your ground is wet and so is the mulch you will have delivered.
Mulch seals in and helps retain moisture as well as condition the soil, feed the plants and suppress the weeds.
Mulch applied during winter will smother and kill existing weeds as well.
But mulch’s best attribute is its ability to thermal-regulate the soil temperature. So when cold, well below freezing weather hits, followed by clear, sunny (radiant heat on the exposed ground) days, your plants’ roots will be all snuggled in with a nice blanket of mulch ready for whatever cranky Old Man Winter has to throw at them.
Get on the mailing list
Now is the time to start getting all those seed and garden catalogs because winter is the time to recap last year’s garden and plan a new one for the coming year.
What is better on a cold Friday then to relax in a comfortable chair with a variety of garden catalogs and dream your way through the gorgeous pictures?
Great gardens arise from big ideas, so be ready to plot your course next year by thumbing through any and all garden material you can get your hands on this winter.
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 [email protected] (subject line: Andrew May).