7:38 PM EST, November 26, 2012
Gardening? In November? December? Yes, there is still plenty you can do to nurture your need to toil in the soil and get your garden ready for its winter rest.
First, plant something. If you start amaryllis or paperwhites bulbs now, they should be blooming beautifully early in the New Year. Plant half now and half in two weeks for a show that will last for a month or more.
Next, water. If you planted new trees or shrubs this year, make sure they go into the winter fully hydrated. Water them deeply and well once a week until we get a deep penetrating frost. Also, remove support stakes from trees that were planted last fall to avoid damage.
Are leaves still lurking? Gather any remaining leaves to add to your compost pile or to shred as mulch. I blanket my vegetable bed, then turn all that organic richness into the soil in the spring. This blocks winter weeds and feeds the soil.
Give your compost pile one final turn to mix in all those leaves you raked. If you have a good mix of greens (nitrogen) and browns (carbon), it should keep gently cooking this winter.
When tidying your flower beds, keep wildlife in mind. Birds and other animals feed on seeds and use plants as cover, so try to leave some plants standing. Coneflowers, Black-eyed Susans, and liatris seed heads provide food and attractive winter structure.
Hurricane Sandy and other storms beat up many trees and shrubs this year. Now that the leaves have fallen, it’s easy to spot damaged branches or rough stubs where branches have sheared off. Help injured trees and shrubs heal by making a clean pruning cut behind ragged edges.
If you haven’t given your lawn its final haircut, do it now. While we recommend that you mow high — 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 inches — in the summer, now you can mow low. Two inches is just right.
It’s tool time. Clean and sharpen your garden tools now so they will perform well next year. Rub a little linseed oil on wooden handles, then tuck all of your tools away somewhere nice and dry for the winter.
Are you getting a live Christmas tree this year? If you want to plant it in your yard, dig the hole now while the ground isn’t frozen hard. Fill the hole with a bag of mulch so no one takes a tumble.
Again, if the ground isn’t frozen hard, you can still sneak in a few spring bulbs. Just make sure you plant them at the right depth — three times their diameter — and water them in well. The late, great garden writer Henry Mitchell once admitted to planting bulbs in January which bloomed wondrously the next year. Gardening is about hope.
My hope for you is a blessed holiday season and many more years of happy gardening.
Annette Ipsan is the Extension educator for horticulture and the Master Gardener program in Washington County for the University of Maryland in Washington County. She can be reached at 301-791-1604 or email@example.com.
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