By Jean Thomson
December is a lighter month for gardeners, but it still is a gardening month. Fortunately, given busy schedules with other tasks, some of the gardening activities are completely optional.
For example, you may have developed a personal wish list of desirable garden tools and gloves, but it is entirely up to you whether you share it with family and friends. Similarly, you might choose to cut back ornamental grasses now ? or perhaps you?ve already done so ? but it is perfectly fine to leave them standing for winter interest and cut them back next spring.
As you decorate your home for the holidays, you might consider clipping bits of greenery from your garden. Boughs and branches from boxwood, junipers and yew can be very useful. So can a bit of red-twig dogwood. Just be mindful of each plant?s overall structure to keep the plant attractive.
Of course you will be mindful of the need to water if you have a natural Christmas tree. Extend that consideration outdoors if you have planted trees or shrubs in the last two years. Those plants have not yet developed an extensive root system, so it is hard for them to store much water. If and when there are warm spells this month and all through the winter, take the opportunity to water those plants.
Inside, you will be able to water houseplants a bit less frequently through the winter months. Similarly, don?t fertilize until you see new growth.
As you care for your property through the winter, be very careful about using salt. It dries out plants both through direct contact and through accumulations in the soil. Shrubs and perennials close to driveways and sidewalks are at high risk.
To mitigate risk, shovel snow before putting down any de-icer. Apply de-icers sparingly and sweep up any undissolved crystals. Seriously consider a switch to calcium chloride.