"My December To Do List 2015," by the Whistling Gardener

he Whistling gardener shares his December “To Do” list. Photo courtesy of Sunnyside Nursery.
he Whistling gardener shares his December “To Do” list. Photo courtesy of Sunnyside Nursery.

This weekly column is being reproduced with the permission of Steve Smith, The Whistling Gardener, and owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville.

Now that the tryptophan is out of our systems we can get back to work and clean up our gardens after the big blow and the freeze and be thankful we didn’t have to also deal with snow (although snow is actually the gardener’s friend).

Here are some things to do when you find yourself going stir-crazy.

GENERAL CLEANUP: with the recent hard freeze it is safe to say that summer annuals can be removed and perennials can be cut back.

Most leaves are now down so either rake them into the beds and leave them there until February (whatever nutrients are in them will be leached into the soil) or rake them up now and follow up with a fresh one inch layer of mulch (EB Stone bales of compost are easy and convenient unless you can go bulk).

DISEASE AND INSECT CONTROL: clean up all leaves under fruit trees to prevent the spread of diseases. If you have had issues with scab and mildew and worms then one or two applications of Bonide Orchard Spray (contains sulfur and pyrethrum, both natural products) on one of those “nice days” this winter will help.

Monterey Copper and Oil is another option that has a low toxicity. These products are great for all deciduous plants, not just fruit trees. Spray once this month and then again in early February.

PRUNING: for the most part save your pruning for the month of February after the really hard freezes have passed. Of course there is nothing wrong with a little light pruning any time of the year but hard-core pruning is best left until February.

Tidy up your hedges and cut back the perennials and hold off on the rest.

As gardeners we often have this urge to clean up the first chance we get and by leaving things alone until February we can help protect the garden from really hard freezes plus by leaving our beds “messy” it gives the birds something to rustle through as they look for insects and seeds.

WINTER PROTECTION: watch the weather forecasters and be ready for when the temps drop below 20 degrees.

Move containers close to the house or even into the garage for a few days.

Cover tender plants in the garden with some kind of material that will hold in heat be it a wool blanket or a commercial frost fabric or even a loosened bale of straw or pile of twigs and leaves. Leave it on the plant until the weather moderates and then remove it so the plant can breathe.

Also, be sure and drain your bird baths and fountains so they don’t break.

LAWNS: it’s a slow time for lawns but they will benefit from a late application of lime and an organic fertilizer like EB Stone Nature’s Green.

Watch for diseases like red thread and treat with Bonide Infuse. Keep off the grass when it is frozen.

PLANTING: yes Virginia, it is okay to plant this time of year as long as the ground isn’t frozen or so saturated that the hole fills full of water all on its own. You can find a surprising array of plant material in garden centers this time of year including many that are actually blooming.

Don’t be afraid to go looking for some new treasures and remember you can still plant bulbs all the way until the end of the year.

Steve Smith is owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville and can be reached online at

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