This post will describe the best ways to use the darkest month of the year to tend to the garden and prepare for the next growing season.
December Garden Tasks | Yes, there’s such a thing!
December garden tasks are not only essential to a healthy and productive garden, but they are also sanity savers during this dark and hectic time of year. During December days with pleasant winter weather, get your work clothes on and tend to the tasks described below. On the days when the weather is unbearable, tend to indoor garden tasks like planning, creating your seedling schedule and seed purchases, cleaning tools, and catching up on gardening books and podcasts.
December Garden Tasks | Evaluating and Planning
The Kitchen Garden Planner and Journal is an eBook designed to help you plan and track your efforts to grow the best vegetables, fruits, and flowers possible. Written by Lorrie Schoettler and Designed by Bob Shelley, this eBook will teach you how to design, track, budget, and record your garden spaces season by season, and month by month.
The eBook comes with lifetime access to printable worksheets for tracking everything from plant varieties to soil amendments, pest management strategies to seed starting schedules.
December Garden Tasks | Seeds and Seedlings
December garden tasks begin and end with the early arrival of next year’s seed catalogs. There is no better December activity than grabbing a cuppa and sitting with the seed catalogs dreaming and planning. I begin by pulling out my remaining seeds from this year and listing my inventory in my garden planner and journal. Then, I review this past year’s seed starting and transplant schedule (you can find them in the Seasonal Living Resource Library). I set up a creative tension between the potential captured in those seed catalogs and the reality described in my schedules and journals. This edgy space helps me create a more realistic plan for the coming growing season. Otherwise, my eyes are bigger than my garden space.
This work will continue through January, but I love this beginning most of all. December’s garden is full of memories of the past growing season and ripe with time to dream of the next.
Later in the post, we’ll be talking about tool maintenance. It’s also a good time to clean and organize your pots and flats. Gardening is very messy and December provides time to bring order to the chaos.
Check out my affiliate links to items to help you dream and plan in December!
Seedling Guides and Schedules in the Seasonal Living Resource Library
My monthly and weekly seed starting and transplanting schedules are in the Seasonal Living Resource Library. They are designed for a 4-season garden in Zones 6-7. The last frost date in this agricultural zone is Mother’s Day. Outside of these zones? You can find your agricultural zone at this link. Then, simply shift the weeks around to accommodate your frost dates. If you are confused by this, send me an email and I’ll walk you through the process.
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December Garden Tasks | In the Vegetable Garden
December garden tasks, as with all the winter months, is weather dependent. Most gardeners don’t do well being housebound. If December days are bright and welcoming, and the ground is not frozen, bundle up and tackle as many of these chores as you can. It will feel oh so good to be outdoors and you’ll be setting yourself up for success in the coming growing season!
Be sure to use your garden planner and journal to document your work. There’s no better way to know your land and best practices than documenting your efforts, weather conditions, and how your plants are handling the season. Here are some recommendations for December Garden Tasks in the vegetable garden:
1. The 4-Season Garden Beds
- Clean dead leaves off of winter crops like your brassicas to minimize the threat of disease and stress on the plants. If it is warm enough, hand water plants with water and organic fertilizer like fish emulsion.
- Harvest root vegetables before the ground freezes. Then, pack the remainders in the garden with straw and cover with remay to help them survive the coming cold and dark days. Plants in my agricultural zone stop growing from mid-December until mid-January. I harvest enough root vegetables to make it into the new year.
- Clear and repair paths and walkways.
2. Perennial fruits and vegetable garden beds
- Check your perennial crops like rhubarb and asparagus. Clean away all dead plant matter. Be sure to look for praying mantis egg cases in the asparagus bed and move them to a place safe from birds. These beneficial insects are the best pest management strategy in an organic garden. Make a note to yourself if you need to order new asparagus crown. If it is warm and the ground is not frozen, you can divide and replant rhubarb clumps.
- Cut back any remaining berry canes, add compost and mulch to the bed.
- Weed the strawberry patch and fertilize.
3. Overwintering crops
- If the ground is not frozen, it’s not too late to plant garlic and shallots. Be sure to mulch the beds with tree leaves to help keep moisture in and weed seeds out.
- Weed, water and cover the spinach bed. Spinach is a miracle winter crop. It can take a deep freeze and thrive. Many kale varieties are the same.
- Mulch carrots with straw and cover with remay. Freeze-kissed carrots are as sweet as candy!
4. The herb garden
If it is a warm December, you may still be harvesting sage, parsley, and thyme from your herb garden. Be sure to weed and remove dead plant matter. Add compost and mulch. Be sure the herb garden is ready to welcome lovage, its first spring arrival!
December Garden Tasks | In the Flower Garden
- December is a good time to take a look at climbing plants in the flower garden like roses and wisteria. Cut them back, weed and mulch.
- Leave faded flower heads on your perennials as the birds like the seeds. Remove any dead plant matter and mulch.
- If you haven’t gotten to your dahlia bulbs, be sure to dig them up and store them for winter.
- If the ground is not frozen, you can still plant spring bulbs.
December Garden Tasks | Trees and Lawn
Winters are windy here in Harpers Ferry, WV and I find myself constantly cleaning up falling branches in December. Spring mowing will be much easier if some time is spent while tending to your December garden tasks picking up tree debris and cleaning up the lawn area. Making snowmen will be more enjoyable in a clean lawn as well!
Take cuttings from evergreens to decorate the home.
More December Garden Tasks
Podcasts and Books
December specifically, and winter generally, is a great time to catch up on garden reading and listening. Check out this post to get my garden podcast recommendations and this one for my most recommended garden books.
Finding Seed Swaps
Be sure to join the Super Duper Seed Swap this December. It’s easy, you just follow them on Instagram! The next swap is January 5th and they’ll send out instructions on how to participate through their Instagram feed. It’s fun and easy. You’ll package up your saved seeds in small quantities and mail them to the organizers. They create mixed bundles of seeds from other swappers and send them back to you in the mail. the entire event only costs the price of return postage, $7.50. Read this blog post to get even more details.
Bringing Nature Indoors
After tending to the lawn and garden, decorate with those evergreen cuttings. They can help with your Winter Solstice celebrations, and all your winter holiday celebrations!
Be sure to listen to pleasant seasonal music while creating the perfect indoor vibe this December.
There’s a member’s page full of limitless resources to help you create your seasonal life. We offer recipes, planners, garden quick guides, food preservation quick guides and many more freebies and downloads. Use the form below to sign up as a member of the Resource Library today. It comes with my weekly newsletter full of unique content for members only!
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