Gardening slows outdoors in Northwestern gardens in December. But there's still garden fun to be had indoors and out.
Not sure how to keep your natural tree soft and green? Start by choosing a fresh tree.
Test Garden Tip: If you remove lower branches from your tree, use them to decorate other areas of your home, inside or out. Indoors, protect wood finishes by placing boughs on a piece of fabric or parchment.
Outwit winter chill by preparing for cold snaps. A few simple steps can mean the difference between a plant that dies or survives.
Test Garden Tip: When a lawn is frozen or grass blades are frost-covered, keep off. Walking on lawns in this condition can actually damage turf crowns.
Dress up winter pots, empty vegetable gardens, and flowerbeds with cheerful flowering annuals. Pansies, snapdragon, dianthus, calendula, and viola will stage a pretty show all winter. You can also rely on flowering cabbage and kale to brighten winter scenes.
Tuck a dose of slow-release fertilizer beneath root balls as you plant these colorful beauties to ensure they're well-fed throughout the season.
Add a touch of green indoors by filling a sunny windowsill with potted herbs. Choose varieties you cook with to make the best use of them.
Look for bare-root trees at nurseries this month. These soil-free gems offer a tremendous bargain; they'll take off quickly in cooler winter growing conditions.
If you plant balled-and-burlapped plants, don't use the trunk as a handle to move the plant. Each time you do this, you risk dislodging soil from around roots. It's best to handle the plant by the soil ball.
This is an ideal time to plant dormant trees and shrubs, as well. Consider colorful bloomers like mock orange, hydrangea, spirea, or flowering quince.
If you still have spring-blooming bulbs on hand, get them in the ground as soon as possible. Feel free to scoop up clearance bulbs. Compost any that are soft or dried up.
Go on rodent patrol: It's prime season for pesky varmints to chew bark off trees and shrubs. Eliminate hiding places for rodents by removing weeds around woody landscape plants. Also, never pile mulch directly against a tree trunk or shrub base.
Keep compost going: Heavy winter rains can quickly drench compost, eliminating oxygen from the pile and making it stink. Slip a cover over your compost during winter's rainy season. Blanketing the top is fine.
Monitor water flow: During heavy rainfalls, observe water runoff patterns in your landscape. Address these issues next year with ditches or French drains. Or spend winter learning about rain gardens and bioswales -- and add one of these gardens to your yard.
Store tender roots: Before the month ends, examine roots, tubers, and corms you dug during fall. Compost any that are soft or moldy. On dahlias, cut out bad spots and dust the wound with sulfur. Remove these tubers from the others and store separately.
Stop hitchhikers: Reduce home insect invasions from firewood by bringing in only enough wood to burn for a day. Knock logs together or against the ground before bringing indoors to dislodge insects.