What’s happening in the December garden in a cold climate? Cool weather veggies are tucked under their covers, and fresh salad greens are growing indoors. Plus, the beauty of snow and ice offers many opportunities to get creative with garden art and decor.
For more, see How to Grow Vegetables in the Winter.
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December Garden Tasks
These are examples of tasks I like to do in my cold-climate garden (zone 6). Every garden is different, and we each adapt based on climate, growing zone and conditions, the plant species, challenges, and time and resources available. Please take the inspiration and run/grow with it.
Here in southwestern Ontario, Canada, December usually means frosts at night, frozen ground, and (sometimes) snow. The greatest snow storm in recorded history (for our area) occurred in 2010. I remember it well because we were moving house and it was insane. Since then, we’ve had Decembers with barely a flurry of snow. It’s quite unpredictable.
Monthly Garden Tasks
- Check on planted containers in winter storage including bulbs and fig trees. Keep lightly watered and mouse-proof.
- Maintain winter vegetable garden. Water and air as needed.
- Continue composting with the winter compost method.
- Make sure your pond does not freeze over. I keep a pump running and a hole open in the ice.
- Set up winter bird feeding stations. Clean, repair, store breakable feeders.
- If temperatures are consistently cold, add homemade suet to bird feeders and provide fresh, running water.
- Keep bird feeders and water feeders clean and filled.
- Grow salad greens and peas indoors.
- Force (grow) indoor flowering bulbs including paperwhites, amaryllis, and more.
- Divide and repot houseplants as needed. Take cuttings to give as gifts.
Whether or not you’re a fan of cold weather, you had to admit that winter is beautiful! Glistening snow. Bright sunshine. Quiet. Birds. I love it all.
Here’s some project ideas.
- Ice decorations | Use fruit and botanicals to create outdoor art.
- String lights | How about some unexpected ways to use string lights?
- Pinecone crafts | Fun project to do with kids.
- Stone painting | It sounds odd but this is very relaxing to do.
- Reuses for Christmas trees | Don’t throw it out!
- Learn to hand feed birds | Winter is a good time for this.
- Winter garden art | Embrace cold weather. It’s inevitable.
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- Order seed catalogues or browse online. Here’s a directory of seed companies in Canada and the United States.
- Order bare-roots plants including asparagus and cane fruits (they are shipped at planting time).
- Order seeds for indoor sowing. Get seed starting mix and organic container mix so you’re ready to sow.
- Gift-giving season is the time to make your garden art wishes known. Here’s some of my favourite ideas.
You may not know it by the name phenology, but you certainly know what it is. Phenology is the science of observing annual first events in nature. When flower buds open. When peepers first peep. When bees appear. When migrations arrive. When bulbs pop up. The list is endless.
Seasonal changes prompt natural responses in the plant and animal kingdoms. It is interesting to note these events and compare year over year. And it is these things that will be affected, and are affected now, by climate change.
Late Autumn / Early Winter Phenological Events
Here’s a few examples you might notice in December when winter solstice brings us the shortest day and longest night of the year.
- Bare trees – deciduous trees have dropped their leaves.
- Plants have died or gone dormant.
- Birds resting in sun to find warmth where they can.
- Less food available for animals. You may notice more mice in your house.
- Ponds icing over. If you have fish, keep an air hole open.
- Frozen soil.
- Listen. Sound travels differently when it’s cold.
Want a Handy Bulb Forcing Calendar?
~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛