December

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Garden Calendar for December

hoarfrost on leaves

Keep the weeds pulled, before they have a chance to flower and go to seed again


Warm spells in winter: Sometimes in the middle of winter, we suddenly get a few warm days. For the most part, this is not a big problem, but you may need to check on a couple of things. If you covered your roses with rose cones, you may need to ventilate the cone to prevent heat from building up inside. The same should be done with cold frames. If it is a warm, sunny day, the temperatures may be rising in the cold frame more than you expect. Remember to close vents as the temperature drops again at night.

Tools and Equipment December Upkeep

  • Try coating your snow shovel with a “no-stick” cooking spray; the snow slides right off. Recoat as needed.
  • Don’t store your lawn seeder/fertilizer. Use it to spread sand or sawdust on drives and walkways.
  • Consider purchasing garden tools, books, clothing, or a gift certificate to a nursery or garden center to give as a gardener’s holiday gift for that special gardener in your life.
  • A home weather station that includes a minimum-maximum thermometer, a rain gauge, and a weather log is a splendid gift for a gardener, and it can be put to use at once.
  • Ask Santa for a special plant or garden tool for yourself. Begin a collection of your favorite perennials, and request a new plant every year. If you garden indoors, start a collection of succulents that can be added to yearly.
  • Check belts and spark plugs and buy replacements, change the oil, sharpen the blades or tines, and clean off dirt and plant debris so equipment will be ready to go when you need it next spring.
  • Drain the fuel tank and run the lawn mower or tiller engine dry before putting the machine away for the winter.
  • Clean and sharpen lawn and garden tools, and store them in a dry storage area. A light coating of oil on exposed metal surfaces will prevent rusting.

Growing Food in December

  • Water, harvest, and weed any plants growing under row covers.
  • Water vegetables well before a cold spell.
  • On nice days, spread some compost and double dig beds in preparation for planting this spring.
  • Plant asparagus crowns this month. Remember to spare no effort in enriching the soil organically since the bed will produce for 20 years.
  • The expression “fine herbes” may be found in many cookbooks. This is a French herb mixture containing chives, chervil, parsley, tarragon, and sometimes other herbs that were added to sauces, soups, and cheese and egg dishes.
  • You still have time to make herb vinegars from chives, shallots, garlic, or any herbs on your windowsill for the holidays. Use approximately four ounces of fresh herbs to one quart of wine vinegar. Allow the herbs to infuse for at least two weeks.
  • Many gardeners choose to use inverted clay pots to cover perennials for an advantage of protection from drying winter winds. Chicken wire can be fashioned to stand over a large garden bed, and can be covered with burlap. Secure the burlap edges to the corners of the frame. Perennial vegetables such as artichokes, asparagus, chayotes and rhubarb can also be protected this way.
  • A cover crop in vegetable gardens – one not intended for harvest – can provide nutrients to the soil as well as winter protection (till it back into the soil in spring). Cover crops such as annual rye, crimson clover, hairy vetch, or winter wheat can provide shade for the soil, prevent germination of weed seeds, and fix nitrogen deep within the soil (hence the name green manures). If you choose to till in autumn instead of planting a cover crop, top it off with a winter mulch.

Lawns and Landscaping in December

  • You need to renew your landscape periodically. Most shrubs need to be replaced every 15 to 20 years, less frequently than the furniture and decor inside the house!
  • We often forget the spots outdoors where rain doesn’t reach. Check moisture around foundation plantings beneath a roof overhang and water if necessary.
  • Do filling and grading around the yard. The loose soil will settle during the cold months.
  • Minimize traffic on a frozen lawn to reduce winter damage.

Perennials, Annuals, and Bulbs for December

Dr. Joel Poinsett, the 1st US ambassador to Mexico, brought the poinsettia to US in 1828. The plant,
called “flower of the blessed night” in Mexico was renamed in Poinsett’s honor.

  • Tender plants in perennial gardens benefit from a light covering of evergreen boughs or oak branches with their leaves intact. The purpose of this covering is to lessen desiccation or drying out by wind. Take care not to smother the plants. You should be able to see the plants through the branches.
  • If outdoor plants dry out during the winter, the foliage can be damaged. Water plants in late summer and fall, especially if rain has been less than normal, and on warm winter days if soil is dry.
  • If stored bulbs begin to shrivel, they are too dry. Place them in a container with potting medium, peat moss, or sawdust to stop the loss of water.
  • Many gardeners choose to use inverted clay pots to cover perennials for an advantage of protection from drying winter winds. Chicken wire can be fashioned to stand over a large garden bed, and can be covered with burlap. Secure the burlap edges to the corners of the frame. Perennial vegetables such as artichokes, asparagus, chayotes and rhubarb can also be protected this way.
  • To avoid harming near-dormant plants during the winter, do not fertilize, and reduce watering until growth resumes in the spring.
  • A light covering of hay or leaves over perennials inside the cold frame gives added protection from low temperatures and bright sunlight.
  • Bulb forcing indoors can be started as late as mid-winter. Plant tulip bulbs with the tops just above the soil line and the flat side of the bulb toward side of the pot. Plant daffodils with the bulb tops even with the soil line. Hyacinth bulbs should be planted with the tops just above the soil. Crocus bulbs should be planted about 1 inch below the soil surface.
  • Mums and pansies tend easily to be heaved out of the ground during weather freezes and thaws, causing root damage. Place discarded Christmas tree branches over flower beds to prevent this from happening.
  • Use branches from discarded Christmas trees to mulch beds of bulbs.
  • Mulch perennial borders after the ground freezes to a depth of a two or three inches. Applying mulch too early increases the chance of harboring destructive field mice that are still on the lookout for comfortable winter quarters.
  • Sow seeds of alpine plants early in December in an outdoor cold frame. Ideally, the seeds should remain frozen until March, then germinate in spring, so the frame should be kept shaded and ventilated. Seeds also may be sown in flats and placed in some convenient, shaded, outdoor location where they will stay frozen until spring. A good covering of snow seems to help.
  • Winter protection for peonies is necessary only the first winter to help prevent frost heaving. Mound soil over the new planting for several inches, or after the ground freezes hard, mulch with evergreen boughs or straw. Don’t use a material that will mat down, such as leaves. In extremely cold climates, 10 to 20 degrees below zero, protection also is necessary for tree peonies.
  • Check dahlia tubers and gladiolus corms in storage. If they are sprouting, place them in a cooler spot. If they show signs of shriveling, re-wrap them in ventilated plastic bags. Moldy or damaged roots must be removed and discarded. Molding indicates over-moist conditions. Move healthy bulbs to a location with better ventilation, and set in dry peat moss.

Trees, Shrubs, and Ground Covers in December

  • It’s still prime time to transplant and move shrubs and trees. Remember to keep the root ball as large as you can manage without putting your back at risk. You may want to wait to move shallow rooted plants such as azaleas until late February, after the worst weather has passed.
  • Trim any dangling or loose limbs on roses, fruit trees, and other plants so they don’t blow around in the wind. Otherwise, go easy on pruning and don’t touch anything that blooms in the spring, except to repair ice damage. Of course, you can always trim evergreen and berry sprigs for holiday decorations, just remember to follow good pruning techniques when you do so.
  • Mail-order growers will send gift cards and catalogs with a promise to ship the selected rose bushes at just the right time for planting. Many local garden centers and nurseries also offer gift certificates to be redeemed when spring arrives. To make your gift truly memorable, tuck the gift certificate into a crystal bud vase or pack a catalog and gift card into a harvest basket along with gardener’s gloves, pruning shears, and a trowel.
  • Snow and ice on trees and shrubs: As we get into winter, the threat of damage from snow and ice is always near. When snow piles up on evergreens, try to gently brush it off. Don’t shake the branches as this may cause them to break. If the snow is frozen on the branch and will not brush off easily, it is best to let it melt naturally, to avoid damage to the tree or shrub.
  • If tree limbs break due to the weight of ice or snow, it is advisable to have the broken limbs removed as soon as the weather permits. Hanging branches can be a danger to passing pedestrians. Also, the tree will be able to heal the wound better in spring if the wound has clean edges instead of ragged tears.
  • Wreaths made from cut greenery will last much longer if kept cold, so plan to use them outdoors. Bring them inside for short periods on special occasions.
  • When choosing a Christmas tree, be sure it is not too large for the room. Take a tape measure or folding ruler with you so you’ll have less trimming to do once you get the tree home.
  • Never allow the reservoir of your Christmas tree holder to go dry as an air lock can form in the trunk that can keep the tree from absorbing water again.
  • Branches of evergreen rhododendrons last for months in vases if never allowed to run out of clean water.
  • Soak broad-leaved shrubs and newly planted trees if rainfall has been scarce. Apply 3 to 6 inches of mulch after the first killing frost but by the time the ground freezes. Leave a small distance between the mulch and the trunks of trees and large shrubs to discourage rodents.
  • Low indoor humidity in winter can make cut Christmas trees dry out quickly. Before the needles start to drop from the tree, take it down. Don’t try to prolong a festive feeling by endangering your home and family with a dried-out, flammable tree.
  • If possible, bring the Christmas tree into a partially heated area, such as a basement or porch, the night before decorating. This will help it adjust gradually to the warmer temperatures in your home. Its branches will relax a little, allowing for picking the “best” side.
  • Christmas trees absorb between 2 pints and 1 gallon of water per day, so a tree stand that holds at least 1 gallon of water is recommended. Make sure to check the water level daily and supply fresh water as needed.
  • When out walking on a winter’s day, take notice of the silhouettes of deciduous trees and shrubs. In some species, the winter form is a most distinctive and handsome feature.
  • Lusterleaf holly Ilex latifolia becomes a beautiful, pyramidal, specimen tree. It has thick, glossy, evergreen leaves, and small clusters of deep-red fruits. Plants exhibit drought tolerance and can be grown in the Piedmont and Coastal Plains regions.
  • Yews, junipers, holly, boxwood, broad-leaf evergreens, and many deciduous trees and shrubs can be propagated this month. Insert evergreen cuttings in vermiculite or sand in a cool greenhouse. Tie bundles of deciduous cuttings together, and bury in sand in a cold frame. Remove in early spring and, plant in a nursery bed.
  • Cut evergreen boughs dry out quickly indoors. Try to keep the cut ends in water and keep away from heat sources and drafts.
  • Take hardwood cuttings of forsythia, spirea, Japanese quince, wisteria, mock-orange, trumpet-vine, viburnum, and other deciduous shrubs.
  • Trim hollies and other evergreens, such as magnolia, aucuba, boxwood, stranvaesia, and pyracantha, to furnish material for holiday decorations.
  • On mild days, remember to water window boxes or other outside containers planted with evergreens.
  • Tie evergreens, such as yews, juniper, and arborvitae, in a spiral fashion with rope or twine to compress the shrub size and reduce damage from snow or ice.
  • If your Christmas tree drops a number of brown needles right after you bring it inside, not to worry. Conifers normally drop their 3- to 5 year-old needles throughout the winter and you are getting some of that natural leaf fall in your living room.
  • Make a decorative evergreen ball for outdoor use by pushing sprigs of evergreen into a foam ball. When the ball is full, trim with ribbons, mistletoe, or holly.
  • For well-developed fruit on your holly trees, there must be a male tree to pollinate the female trees.
  • Thoroughly mulch azaleas, rhododendrons, camellias, and laurel after the ground freezes. They prefer acidic materials, such as oak leaves and pine needles, but any mixed, dry leaves will do if oak and pine are not available.
  • Don’t use hemlocks as Christmas trees because they drop their needles almost immediately after they are brought inside. Instead use balsam or Douglas fir, pine, or spruce.
  • When cutting evergreens for Christmas decorations, use care to prevent harming plants. Distribute pruning over the entire plants. Limit cutting to mild shaping and thinning. Do not trim boxwoods when the temperature is below 40F.
  • Erect snow deflectors over shrubs under the dripline of houses and other buildings to protect them against avalanches off the roof.
  • Prepare gifts from your trees and shrubs. Wreaths or swags from pruning evergreens will be welcome holiday decorations anywhere. While you’re at it, take a few minutes to decorate your home with materials from the yard. Evergreen trees, such as pines, junipers, cedar, and arborvitae, tolerate selective pruning, and their fragrance adds a holiday touch. Among the broadleaf evergreens, cut holly, laurel, and boxwood sprigs.
  • If an ice storm damages your trees, prune the broken branches. If left alone, in most cases the wood fiber will not grow back, and the branch will die.
  • Remove snow from evergreen shrubs to prevent suffocation and breaking. Tap the branches gently.
  • Place Christmas trees away from fireplaces, radiators, TV sets, and anything else that could dry the needles. Keep your Christmas tree well watered from the time it is brought home until it is discarded.
  • Plan a visit to a public garden or nursery where you can observe trees and shrubs in their winter phase. Some have quite lovely shapes and colors that could be an asset to your landscape.
  • Assess the energy efficiency of your landscape. Do you have evergreen trees or shrubs blocking a window where the sun’s warmth would be welcome? Consider replacing them with deciduous plants that would let sun in during winter, but cast cooling shade in summer.
  • Where snow drifts, plan to plant a windbreak next spring. Experiment with a movable barrier to decide the best angle and position for the planting.

Indoor Gardening December

  • Water houseplants carefully. Don’t overdo watering and fertilizing for plants overwintering indoors. Only fertilize blooming plants.
  • Houseplant foods are beneficial, but remember that a little fertilizer can go a long way. Many gift plants may not need to be fertilized until spring.
  • The potted plants you receive during the holiday season are not meant to be kept as permanent house plants. They were raised in a greenhouse and do not adapt well to the conditions in your home. Treat them like long-lasting cut flowers – enjoy them as long as possible, but discard when they become unattractive.
  • To prolong the life of a flowering poinsettia, keep it evenly moist and protect it from being chilled or subjected to drafts. Keep it in full sunlight between 65 and 72F.
  • If the buds drop and the stems shrivel on your Christmas cactus, look for root injury caused by dry soil.
  • If your amaryllis has been grown in a warm room, the long flower stalk may require staking. Take care not to damage the bulb when inserting a stake into the container.
  • Brown leaf edges develop on some potted tropical plants when grown indoors. To keep these plants looking their best, use sharp scissors and trim away dried portions of leaves, following the natural shape of the leaves.
  • Mistletoe cactus Rhipsalis baccifera looks a little like mistletoe, but when young, is bristly like its cactus relatives. It needs bright, filtered light. Unlike most cacti, it needs an indoor area with 60 percent humidity.
  • The Christmas cactus will be coming into bloom. Reduce watering to prolong the blooming period. Keep in full sun at 70F.
  • Place a newspaper between the windowsill garden and the window at night to keep the chill from injuring house plants.
  • Keep your flowering chrysanthemum blooming longer by keeping the plant out of direct sunlight. Keep the soil slightly moist. Day temperatures should be 68F, and night temperatures 40 to 55F.
  • Be sure to remove or punch holes in decorative foil around holiday plants, or it will collect water and cause roots to die.
  • Seeds taken from fresh grapefruits and oranges sown in a well-drained, sandy soil will soon produce attractive, green-leaved plants.
  • A common complaint in growing rubber plants indoors is yellowing leaves with dead spots on the edges. This is usually caused by over-watering. Bottom drainage helps remove surplus water. If the plant has been in the container for a long time, remove the soil ball and loosen bound roots. Remove some of the soil at the top of the ball, and transplant into a larger pot.
  • For continuous bloom in the home greenhouse, try miniature roses. Place in full sun, keep the soil barely moist, and feed every two weeks with a complete fertilizer.
  • A new philodendron, ‘Prince of Orange’ is colorful in all of its stages of growth. New leaves are bright orange. As the leaves mature, they pale from orange to apricot, then change to yellowish-green, and finally green. Pinkish-red leaf stalks add to the plant’s overall attractiveness. Leaves are large, 12 inches long by 8 inches wide. Bright light is needed to maintain the colors on ‘Prince of Orange.’
  • Purchase amaryllis bulbs in decorative containers for your own enjoyment or for gifts. Their expense is justified as they increase in beauty from year to year.
  • Always cut off the faded flowers of your amaryllis so no seeds form. Producing seed robs the bulb of energy that should go to next year’s growth.
  • Rotate house plants in dim locations to sunny spots to keep them all in prime condition.
  • House plants with large leaves and smooth foliage (philodendron, dracaena, rubber plant, etc.) benefit if their leaves are washed with clear water at intervals to remove dust and grime, thus keeping the leaf pores open.
  • Spider plants Chlorophytum spp. must be mature and have short days (eight hours of sunlight) to produce flower stalks, the runners on which the plantlets form.
  • Leaf tip burn of spider plants can be caused by soluble salts build-up due to improper watering and too much fertilizer. Never allow the plant to dry out excessively. When you do water, water thoroughly from the surface, allowing plenty of water to drain out the bottom of the pot, carrying excess fertilizer with it. Discard any water that has drained out.
  • Ethylene has been shown to hasten cut flower aging, and can cause premature aging of potted flowers and distortion of foliage. Sources of ethylene include ripening fruits (such as apples), furnaces, stoves, engines with incomplete combustion, as well as smoke from cigarettes, cigars, and pipes.
  • Melted snow contains minerals and can be used instead of tap water for winter watering of house plants.
  • Dust foliage plants or give them an occasional shower. They’ll get more light and grow better without a coating of dust.
  • When buds of Christmas cactus show signs of opening, start a regular watering program and keep the plant cool for the best show.
  • Move gift plants with caution. Plants shocked by the cold may drop their leaves in a few days and no longer be such a lovely gift. Wrap each plant in eight to ten layers of newspaper stapled shut over the foliage. If it is freezing outside, warm up the car before loading the plants. Cold temperatures for ‘only a minute’ can be detrimental.
  • Pots of narcissus started indoors now will still bring the fragrance of spring before their outside cousins bloom.

Miscellaneous Gardening Reminders for December

  • Pull English ivy off brick walls and wooden shingles if you want to avoid problems. Prevent ivy from climbing trees and smothering them. Ivy high in trees sets seed and spreads, becoming an invasive pest in the same league as kudzu. Do the environment a favor by cutting all the way through the big ivy stems going up the trunks of any trees attacked by ivy.
  • If you haven’t already done so, band your hardwood trees to organically control cankerworm. Try to get that chore done as soon as possible.
  • Keep the birds happy by filling feeders and by leaving some perennial flowers and grasses standing as natural sources of seed. Winter-bearing berries are also a fine way to encourage birds and wildlife.
  • Snow is a mixed blessing in the garden. Fluffy and light, freshly fallen snow is an excellent insulator. Its millions of tiny air pockets hold warmth in the soil around snow-covered plants. When frigid weather comes after a heavy snowfall, the snow cover may save many plants of borderline hardiness. On the aesthetic side, snow creates an attractive scene when it accumulates on and around evergreens. Nandina, holly, and other fruiting plants are especially colorful against a white background.
  • Don’t store firewood in the house. Insects can come in with firewood. Leave the wood outside until you are ready to build a fire. Firewood should never be treated with insecticides and insecticides are often not needed for most home invaders.
  • Prune your grapevines a little earlier this year to make a classic wreath. If you can’t shape the wreath as you prune,before bending the vines, soak them in water overnight for increased flexibility.
  • A miniature herbal wreath can be make by coating a wooden or plastic curtain ring with a generous amount of glue and dipping it in potpourri to coat it.
  • The use of fruit in wreaths, such as frequently seen in Colonial Williamsburg, was inspired by Luce della Robbia, a 15th century sculptor who carved garlands of fruit and nuts in his work. Fruit can be tied in place using a pliable, 18-weight florist wire that is first inserted through the fruit, then through the straw base. A wooden base with nails to secure fruit is also used. In cold weather that is above freezing, fruit will last for seven to eight days before it needs replacing (unless the birds decide to feast on your decor).
  • Gifts from the garden, such as dried flowers, grapevine wreaths, pickles, and preserves, can be very economical but highly prized. You’re limited only by your imagination.
  • In some species, plant size impacts winter hardiness. A small, young plant may be killed, while a larger plant may be hardy. Also, poor culture methods and attacks by insects or diseases can weaken a plant, making it more susceptible to winter injury.
  • Cut poinsettias can last up to ten days in arrangements. Congeal latex immediately after cutting by quickly searing the cut ends, dipping the ends in boiling water for ten seconds, or soaking the stems in ice water for several minutes.
  • Lining shelves or window sills with aluminum foil reflects light and provides extra light for house plants. Be sure there are no leaks that allow water to collect under the foil and damage sills.
  • Door ornaments can be quick and easy to make from evergreen branches. Wrap a stout wire around the butt ends of branches of several types of evergreens for contrasting color and texture. Then add a large bow to cover the attachment point.
  • Use your microwave to dry flower petals for pot-pourri. Spread rose petals in a single layer on a sheet of paper towel, and place in the microwave along with a cup half full of water. Microwave for one minute on full power. Check them to see if they are dry; if not, give them 10 seconds more and check again.
  • Next year, plan to have a special section in your yard or garden for holiday gift-giving. Plant everlastings for wreaths, baskets, and potpourris, as well as flowers for pressing to create original pictures and stationery. Grow herbs for drying or adding to vinegars or baked goods. Plant luffa gourds to be given as back scratchers or sponges. Include giant sunflowers and millet sprays for bird-loving friends who will welcome the seeds. Relatives who live in the city will appreciate canned relishes and preserves.
  • Save cardboard cylinders from holiday wrapping paper for making biodegradable, cutworm collars. Cut cylinders into 3-inch tubes to fit over transplants.
  • Gift ideas for the avid indoor gardener: a set of plastic-lined wicker baskets or ceramic cache pots, a stocking filled with houseplant goodies, or a gift certificate to a favorite plant shop.
  • The scent of bayberry candles is derived from the Northern bayberry Myrica pensylvanica, a salt-tolerant, semi-evergreen shrub well adapted to the Tidewater area. A male and female should be planted together to ensure production of the ornamental berries.
  • To discourage insects from hatching when nuts, cones, and seed pods are brought indoors for holiday arrangements, place them in the oven on the low setting for an hour.
  • Some other garden and landscaping materials that can have a role in holiday decorating include cones, sweet gum seed pods, acorns, dried flowers and gourds, and miniature ears of Indian corn. Dried weed heads, milkweed pods, bittersweet, dried ferns, and even seed pods from catalpa and locust trees can be used as well.
  • After Christmas, your tree can be moved outside and redecorated for the birds. Anchor the tree in a bucket full of damp sand. Leave on strings of popcorn and cranberries, and add strings of peanuts (in the shell). Apples, oranges, leftover breads and cakes, even peanut butter cookies can be hung on the boughs, but don’t use any foods containing chocolate as it is poisonous to some small animals. For best results, push the edible ornaments well into the tree. Things that swing might scare birds.
  • Be careful when using de-icing salts around driveways and walks this winter; salt is toxic to many flowers, trees, shrubs, and lawn grasses. Sand, sawdust, or a combination of these work well for deicing walks and will not injure plants.
  • Start conditioning seeds that require stratification, such as many of the woody ornamentals. Plant them in a cold frame or put them in the refrigerator or freezer for the required amount of time.
  • For hours of window-side enjoyment, trim a tree for the birds. Tie on dried fruit, suet, and peanut butter-covered pine cones rolled in bird seed.
  • Sunflower seeds will attract desirable birds, such as chickadees, tufted titmouses, finches, cardinals and grosbeaks, to your feeder. Goldfinches and woodpeckers are attracted to suet.
  • Use hair spray to keep seed heads and dried flowers intact.
  • For easy “country candle sticks,” cut five to seven small logs (approximately 2 to 3 inches in diameter) into lengths from 3 to 6 inches. Drill holes in the log tops the diameter of the candles you plan to use. A collection of these surrounded with pine cones and nuts make an attractive centerpiece for the holidays.
  • Peat moss absorbs moisture very slowly. When it is used in potting soil mixes, break clods apart and moisten the material slightly before incorporating it into the mixture. Ideally, prepare potting soil the day before you plan to use it so the moisture equalizes throughout the mixture.
  • Start reviewing and expanding your garden notes to help with next year’s plans.
  • Early winter is a good time to collect more stones for expanding the rock garden in spring. The rocks are more visible, and the solid ground makes a good base on which to haul stone.
  • Write to nurseries to order seed and plant catalogs.
  • Ventilate cold frames on sunny days and do not allow plants to dry out. Remove any infected plants as soon as these are noticed.
  • Research at Oregon State University has shown that dipping berried shoots of holly Ilex aquifolium in 3 to 4 percent calcium chloride solution for one minute results in firmer, better-keeping berries.
  • Be unconventional — offer perennial divisions, seedlings, and shrub volunteers as gifts to your gardening friends. If you have seed from a treasured vegetable variety that you know comes back the same year after year, share some with an equally treasured friend. Write I.O.U.s for perennials that you will be dividing in spring so the recipient can plan ahead for the best location.
  • Keep mistletoe out of the reach of children and pets as the berries are poisonous.
  • Check any fruits and vegetables, or corms and tubers that you have in storage. Sort out any that show signs of disease, and dispose of them.
  • Both live and cut Christmas trees need water while they are inside. Keep live trees indoors for a minimum of time to keep them healthy.
  • To avoid drying out cut Christmas trees, transport the tree covered with a cloth in the trunk of the car. At home, cut an inch or two off the trunk and plunge the butt into a pail of warm water. Keep in a cool, shaded, protected place until moved into the house. Mount in a tree stand or place tree in a bucket with rocks and sand, and fill with water after tree is indoors. Check water needs daily.
  • When decorating for the holidays, be sure you do not place fresh, needled evergreens directly on finished furniture or a mantlepiece; use felt or a tablecloth under them. Sap from branches may take the finish off wooden surfaces.
  • To make your long winter evenings by the fire more enjoyable, burn aromatic woods, such as cherry, apple, and pine.
  • On very cold nights, cover cold frames where semi-hardy plants are being overwintered. Use old carpet scraps, burlap bags stuffed with leaves, or bales of hay.

“A bare tree stands with roots on both ends in December days.”
~ Kiran Bantawa, “Bare Trees”