December Gardening Tips and To-do list by Planting Zone and Region

Did you assume you were off the hook with gardening because December rolled around?

Well, not quite. There are still a few chores to be done whether you go by planting zone or region.

If you’d like to stay in the know about what you should be doing to keep your land well managed over the winter months, you’ve come to the right place.

Here are the December gardening tips for what you should be doing around your property for December:

Garden Chores by Planting Zone

Zone Three

If you live in zone three, the weather is most likely turning cold. Therefore, your chores are becoming fewer in the garden, but you still have a few items on your to-do list:

1. Take Care of Your Feathered Friends

december gardening tips

december gardening tips

Birds appreciate when we leave them food over the winter because food options are scarce for them.

With them in mind, be sure to put out a bird feeder and remember to fill it regularly. They’ll certainly appreciate it and give you an opportunity to do some bird watching over the winter too.

2. Check Your Root Cellar

If you store foods over the winter from your summer and fall harvest, be sure to keep an eye on it. If you store it in a root cellar go through it carefully.

However, if you chose to store the food in a dark closet or basement, be sure to go through your food there too. You’re looking for any signs of mold which could spread and ruin the foods you’ve stored.

3. Protect Perennials

Roses and perennials need an extra measure of protection over the winter months. You don’t need to do anything special.

Instead, use what you’re given. When snow blankets the ground, scoop it up and place it on top of your roses and perennials to offer more insulation to the plants.

4. Begin Looking Forward to Next Year

When winter comes, many gardeners get the blues. Instead of getting down in the dumps, take this time as a time to plan for the next growing season.

Decide which crops you want to grow, where you want to plant them and develop a calendar to let you know what you should be doing with each week of warm weather to get the most out of your garden.

5. Get a Jump Start on Seeds

If you don’t save your own seeds, you may have to shop for seeds each year. The problem is if you wait too long, you may miss out.

Get a jump start on ordering your seeds now. By doing it early, you should be able to have the means to grow whatever you want.

Zone Four

Zone four is beginning to get pretty cold as well. However, there is still plenty to be done to maintain your property and protect what your investments. Here’s what you should be doing this month:

1. Take Care of Your Perennials

Perennials are great because you plant them once and if you take care of them, they last for years. Therefore, it’s a good idea to give them optimal care.

On days when the weather permits, take the time to prune your perennials and add a layer of mulch to insulate them.

2. Check on Your Root Cellar

If you’ve stored crops from your summer and fall harvest, you must keep an eye on them over the winter. It doesn’t matter if you stored them in a dark basement or a root cellar.

The bottom line is – crops can mold over winter. You must check them regularly to pull out any moldy crops before it spreads and ruins everything you’ve stored.

3. Get Busy Harvesting

You may still have some crops hanging out in your garden. Now is the time to get busy harvesting them.

Therefore, any crops you have insulated in your garden or a cold frame, if it’s ready to be harvested, go for it.

4. Start a Small Garden Indoors

This is the perfect time of year to begin a small garden indoors. Whether you purchase a grow light or you choose a south-facing window, there are many items you can grow and have fresh any time you want.

But some of the easiest items to grow indoors are herbs and leafy greens. Our bodies crave those over the winter. Grow as much as you can.

5. Re-evaluate Your Land

Before the snow becomes a thick blanket over your property, take the time to look at how everything is laid out.

You could even draw a diagram or take pictures, and begin considering if there are any changes you’d like to make come spring. You may even want to consider a potager, and for that, you need to plan ahead.

Zone Five

Most of the colder zones should use this month staying busy with protecting perennials and harvesting the last of their cold-weather crops. Here’s what you’ll be doing in zone five:

1. Protect Your Overwintered Crops

Do you have some crops in your garden you’re planning on overwintering? This is typical of root vegetables because the frost actually makes them sweeter over time.

If this is your plan, add row covers to the crops and insulate them with a thick layer of mulch or straw for added protection.

2. Be Festive

This month is an excellent time to prune your evergreen trees and shrubs, but don’t waste the clippings because they can be useful.

Instead, become festive and turn the clippings into a DIY garland. You can make your own natural evergreen garland.

3. Protect Your Trees

This time of year, the deer come out to play. It makes for a beautiful sight when you see deer against the fresh blanket of snow.

However, these same deer will wreak havoc to the trunks of your trees. Protect them with a layer of burlap around the trunks.

4. Check-Up Time for the Houseplants

So you’ve brought your houseplants indoors. They seem to be doing fine, but you don’t pay much attention to them aside from watering them.

Well, this month, give them a check-up. Take the time to see if they look sickly or if you see any signs of bugs. If you do, treat them accordingly.

Zone Six

You should still have a few crops growing in zone six. Though this zone is beginning to prepare for colder temps, you have a few other items on your list before you bundle up for the winter fully. Here’s what you should be doing this month in zone six:

1. Harvest Crops

If you decided to grow kale or any other heartier crops, they are probably ready to be harvested. Take a quick walk through your hoop house or a glance into your cold frame.

Any veggies which seem to be fully grown, it’s time to pull them out and use them. You’ll be glad for a fresh bite out of your garden as the temperatures are starting to dip.

2. Protect Your Overwintered Crops

You may have some crops (such as root veggies) you choose to leave out in your garden. Some people do this to save on storage space and also the frost helps the root veggies develop a sweeter flavor.

If you’re leaving them out overwinter, it’s time to insulate. Be sure to add a thick layer of mulch and straw to them.

3. Put Your Live Christmas Tree to Work

Do you use a real Christmas tree every year? Don’t toss the tree when you’re done. Instead, you can put it to work.

Cut the branches off of the tree and use them to insulate and protect your perennial garden beds. They’ll be glad you did.

4. Split Your Ferns

Do you have large ferns in your home? Are they getting a little too big? Don’t let them take over where they’re sitting or hanging.

Instead, use a knife to divide the root ball in half. Once the fern is divided, you can replant them to make two ferns.

5. Take Care of Your Feathered Friends

Again, birds appreciate all the help we offer them because winter time is hard for them. They struggle to find food because many times the snow covers up what they eat.

This is why it’s nice to fill your bird feeders. It’s also a great way to get some bird watching in over the winter months when you may feel stuck indoors more than you like.

6. Give Asparagus a Trim

Do you grow asparagus? This is the time of year to give it a little extra care. You may notice your asparagus is sprouting crazy foliage from its top.

This foliage is referred to as asparagus fronds. Snip the fronds back during this month. Doing this will help your asparagus be more productive.

Zone Seven

kentucky zone 7

kentucky zone 7

We’re inching toward the warmer zones, which means gardening isn’t fully over yet this year. You still have more harvesting, cleaning, and preparing to do. Here’s what you should be doing during December in zone seven:

1. The Leaves Are Still Falling

Leaves are still coming down in zone seven. Therefore, you should use this time to collect them. You don’t want them staying on your lawn as it can damage your grass.

However, you can collect them and either compost them or use them as a type of mulch over your property.

2. Protect the Berries

If you grow strawberry plants, take the time this month to add a row cover over them or to insulate them with mulch or straw.

By protecting them, this should encourage them to produce earlier the next growing season.

3. Protect the Figgy Pudding

Do you have fig trees? I do, and I love them. Yet, they must be protected when the temperatures begin to dip below 20° Fahrenheit.

Therefore, cover them in sheets or burlap to help keep the cold away from your tree. You’ll be glad when you taste delicious figgy pudding over the holidays.

4. Insulation Matters

If you’re choosing to leave crops in your garden over winter, this could be a good thing. It equates to needing less storage space and also having sweeter flavored root veggies.

But it’s important to make sure you insulate those crops with a thick layer of mulch or straw. You can also insulate your spinach, lettuce, and other greens as well.

Zone Eight

Our last few zones have quite a bit left to do because the crops are beginning to flow in for harvest. Here’s what you’ll be doing this month in zone eight:

1. Time to Plant

You should still be planting this month in zone eight. You can plant items such as onions, spinach, beets, radishes, greens, and chives.

This will make for a delicious harvest when your body begins to crave fresh nutrients over the cold winter months.

2. Protect Your Overwintered Crops

As mentioned, many times above, it’s a wise idea to overwinter some of your crops because it produces a sweet flavor in some of the vegetables.

However, it can also save on storage space. Therefore, be sure to use a cold frame or mulch as an insulator. You can also grow a second planting of lettuce inside a cold frame this month.

3. Add a Splash of Color

Do you get tired of dreary days during the winter? Do you wish you could look outside and see a splash of color?

Well, you can. Begin planting pansies, daisies, petunias, and verbena this month. They’ll be a great way to brighten up your winter days.

4. Cleaning Time

This month is the time to finish cleaning up your garden. If you leave everything as is, you also leave room for pests and diseases to stay hidden.

Plus, these pests will find a home in the clutter in your garden too. They’ll overwinter and come back with a vengeance next season.

5. Time to Plant the Big Stuff

This month is also the time to plant larger items in your yard. If you would like to grow a variety of trees, shrubs, or roses now is the time to plant them.

Take advantage of the cooler temperatures and get these larger items incorporated into your landscape this month.

Zone Nine

There is still much to do in zone nine this month from handling diseased plants and planting more crops. Here’s what you should be doing in zone nine:

1. Care for Your Peach Trees

Peach trees are valuable in this zone. Therefore, you must take great care of them. You may notice when examining your peach trees this month the leaves look funny.

If you begin to see the leaves curl up, know they need a lime-sulfur treatment.

2. Protect Your Fruit Trees

If you grow other fruit trees now is the time to protect them from pests for the next season. Pests are on your fruit trees as well as their eggs.

Your goal should be to get them off of your trees. Therefore, spray the trees with a dormant oil which will kill both pests and their eggs.

3. Time for Cover Crops

As cold weather approaches, it’s important to plant cover crops to protect the soil from the elements over winter.

Therefore, begin planting crops such as rye, oats, barley, and millet to protect your soil until the next season.

4. Prune and Plant

Towards the end of this month, you should begin to focus on planting any trees, shrubs, or perennials you’d like to add to your landscaping.

Also, this month is a great month to prune trees and shrubs which were planted previously and have a developed root system.

Zone Ten

This is our final planting zone which stays typically warmer than the other planting zones. Therefore, this area will be focusing on preparing for cold weather while also enjoying the fruits of their labor during the warmer weather. Here’s what you should be doing this month in your garden if you’re in zone ten:

1. Plant Cold Weather Crops

Cold weather is on the horizon. Therefore, you can begin planting cold weather crops for you to enjoy over the winter months.

Crops such as Brussels sprouts and peas are the perfect option to plant during this time of year in this particular zone.

2. Enjoy the Fruits of Your Labor

Zone ten is famous for producing a great deal of citrus. This is the time of year the citrus is becoming ripe and ready to be harvested.

However, make sure any overripe citrus fruits are removed from the area and composted to deter pests from attacking your trees.

3. Water, Water, Water

December is the time of year when drought is a possibility. For this reason, it’s important to make sure you’re keeping an eye on how much rain your crops are receiving.

If they aren’t receiving an inch of rain per week, be sure to water them deeply to make up for what they aren’t getting.

4. Prepare for Cold Weather

Cold weather is going to make its way to this zone eventually. This is the time of year to pay attention to the forecast.

When frost is predicted, be prepared to place row covers over your crops. You can also cover them with sheets to keep them protected.

5. Time to Harvest

If you planted a crop of beans, carrots, broccoli, greens, melons, radishes, potatoes, or onions you’re about to partake in the fruits of your labors.

This is the time of year where you should be busy harvesting these crops. Be sure to enjoy them, preserve them and store them properly.

Garden Chores by Regions

It’s a good idea to know which gardening chores you should be doing by both planting zone and region. You can cross-reference and make sure you stay on top of things. Here are the gardening chores you should be doing during December by region:

Southwest

  • Be on guard against frost. Pay attention to the weather forecast and be ready to protect your overwintered crops and fruit trees.
  • Remember your feathered friends. It’s a good idea to have bird feeders around your property, but include a bird bath as well because they’ll need a source of water too.
  • Begin planning your garden for the next year and any changes you might like to make. Also, go ahead and get a jump on ordering seeds for the next gardening season.
  • Plant the following vegetables: asparagus, beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, chard, cauliflower, lettuce, peas, spinach, turnips, potatoes, and radishes.
  • Insulate your perennial plants with a thick layer of mulch or straw.
  • Make sure your crops are receiving one inch of water per week. If they aren’t, be sure to water them by hand.
  • Now is the time to plant trees and shrubs. Be sure the soil has had all weeds removed and has the necessary qualities each tree or shrub you are planting will need.

Northwest

  • Take care of your live decorations. Be sure to watch the water in the holder for your live Christmas tree. Also, be sure to put your Poinsettias where they’ll get plenty of sunlight but out of drafty locations.
  • Be sure to clean out your fireplace and woodstoves. The ashes can be used for many things, but they will undoubtedly help amend your garden soil.
  • Plants should receive approximately one inch of water per week. If you’re in the midst of drought, be sure to give adequate water by hand when necessary.
  • Check your root cellar to make sure nothing stored is beginning to mold or rot. This will protect other crops stored in the same space.

Midwest

  • Check your root cellar to make sure nothing you’ve saved is beginning to mold or rot. If it is, remove it to better protect the other fruits and vegetables in storage from molding and rotting as well.
  • When snow begins to fall, be sure to remove it from your evergreen trees because it can cause their branches to break.
  • Give your houseplants a check-up to make sure they’re healthy, receiving adequate water, and aren’t infested with pests. If there are signs of an issue, be sure to treat it promptly.
  • While discussing houseplants, be sure they are being kept in an area with little draft. A drafty window can even cause them to develop issues. Also, use lukewarm water when watering them to avoid shock.

Northeast

  • Provide adequate care to your houseplants. Check for pests, disease, and proper watering; use lukewarm water when watering them to avoid shock; keep them in warmer locations with little to no draft.
  • Use sand to de-ice your driveways because salt can damage plants in the area.
  • Stay off frozen lawns as this can cause damage.
  • When freezing begins, allow your perennials to freeze a few times. After three or four freezes, add a thick layer of mulch to provide insulation.
  • Be sure to knock snow off your evergreen trees because the weight of the snow can cause their limbs to break.
  • Cover up your compost because the winter elements can drain some of its nutrients.
  • Check your root cellar to see if any veggies or fruits have developed rot. If they have, remove anything showing signs of mold or rot.
  • Check for any dead branches or limbs which could fall and cause damage to your home or loss of life. Be sure to remove them before heavy snow and ice head your way.

Southeast

  • Make use of the leaves cluttering your yard. Either add them to your compost pile or use them as a natural mulch, but don’t leave them on your lawn.
  • Now is the time to amend your garden soil. Add rotted manure and compost to your empty garden beds and work them into the soil. Now is also the time to test your soil. Add a dose of lime if it needs it.
  • Plan your garden for the next growing season. Make a note of anything you’d like to change from this past season. Go ahead and order your seeds to make sure you can get what you’d like for the next garden.
  • Plant new trees or shrubs you’d like to add to your landscape.
  • Clean up your garden to make sure you don’t allow disease or pests to overwinter in it.
  • Give your houseplants a check-up. Make sure they don’t look diseased or have pests on them. Treat them accordingly.
  • Add some color to your yard or window boxes by planting petunias, snapdragons, or pansies.
  • You can also plant herbs such as parsley, thyme, garlic, sage, cilantro, and dill.
  • Don’t forget to plant a few winter crops such as carrots, onions, beets, broccoli, and cabbage.

Well, you now know what you should be doing in your area by planting zone and region. Hopefully, this will help you stay on top of your garden and lawn to keep everything alive over winter and keep your home safe as well.

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