December is a great month for gardening in our area — in a way. Unlike in areas where the climate means soil is covered in snow, here we can still go outside and get a lot done.
This is a good time to clean up all debris and plants that just didn’t make it through our tough, dry summer. Fertilize any shrubs that bloom in the spring. Fertilize trees with a slow release product at their base. Plant gerbera seeds now for blooms in the spring and into next fall. Plan on planting larkspur seeds now. You will be rewarded with three or four feet tall flowers that will attract butterflies. Wildflower seeds are best spread by the end of December. Look for inspiration online at Lady Bird Wildflower Center. Choose a site that gets full sun and has good drainage.
Plants to look for to put into the ground now are dianthus, four o’ clocks and bluebonnets. Hyacinth bulbs and freesia bulbs will surprise you in the spring. Now through February is a good time to plant trees and shrubs. The temperatures and rainfall allow roots to get a head start on growth before plants go dormant for the winter. Most shrubs absolutely love being planted in the fall. Their root systems are usually larger and deeper than regular landscape plants, so they really benefit from the extra moisture and root development time.
Protect your lawn from excessive winter damage by providing irrigation during dry periods. Run mower and trimmer engines dry of gasoline and change oil. Take them to the repair shop now to avoid the spring rush. Look for mealy bugs, scale and spider mites on houseplants. Root rot fungus thrives on over-watered houseplants.
Non-planting related jobs are numerous. Clean, stack and store empty plant pots. Clean and oil all tools before storing for winter. Prepare all beds for planting by beginning to improve the soil with composted manure, pine bark and similar organic for materials to mix with existing soil. Drain and store garden hoses that you aren’t using. Buy outside water faucet covers to have in case of freeze scares.
The Farmer’s Almanac is predicting a very mild, very wet winter of 2011-12 for Central and Eastern Texas. They get very specific and suggest Dec. 20-21 for planting carrots, beets, onions, turnips, Irish potatoes and other root crops. Also, you can plant lettuce, cabbage, collard and other leafy vegetables. They say these are also good days for transplanting. On Dec. 22-24, the almanac says to do no planting. On Dec. 25-26, plant sweet corn, beans, peppers and other above ground crops. The days of Dec. 27-29 are good days for killing weeds, briar and other plant pest and poor days for planting. And please contact me at if you garden using the Farmer’s Almanac as a resource.
Joette is an avid gardener and prides herself on staying up-to-date on the latest gardening activities and tips. To share your gardening news with Joette, call (409) 832-1400 or fax her at (409) 832-6222. Her e-mail is joreger [at] msn [dot] com.