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Weekly Gardening Tips for Your Area


Dec. 2012 Garden To Do List: Zone 9

Susan Wells
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November 2012 To Do Lists: Zone 8

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Pick a handful of fresh herbs for making herbal vinegars. Use 8 cups of fresh herbs to 1 gallon of your favorite vinegar. (Pour the gallon of vinegar into a second container. Stuff the herbs into the vinegar’s original container. Now, with use of a funnel, pour the vinegar back into its’ original container covering the herbs. Cap tightly and store in a dark place for a few weeks. When you are ready to use it, or give it as a gift, strain the herbal vinegar into a clean bottle, only filling it half way and add a few sprigs of the fresh herbs. Top it off with more vinegar, and enjoy the fresh flavors.)


Poinsettias have been a holiday favorite since the 1920’s. They do best in a sunny window with an indoor temperature of 60 to 70 degrees. Avoid temperature fluctuations and areas where there are warm or cold drafts. Don’t fertilize the poinsettia when the plant is in bloom this month. One of the biggest mistakes we make with poinsettias is overwatering. They are prone to root rot if the pot sits in saucer-full of water. (Poinsettias exude a milky and sticky liquid that may irritate the skin, but is not poisonous. It is a good idea to keep them away from young children and pets.)

Vegetables, Fruit and Berries

Side-dress vegetable rows with an organic balanced fertilizer or 10-10-10.

You can be enjoying greens such as collards, kale, bok choy, lettuce and mustard all winter. Harvest them with a cut and come again method and they will last for months.

Prune grapes and low-chill raspberries.

Plant your celery this month.

Cut back asparagus fronds.

Plan a crop rotation for your next vegetable garden. It may help to confuse overwintering pathogens and pests next year. If you have space, try not to plant crops from the same family in the same spot more often than every four years.


Consider using your winter vegetables and herbs in the flower beds. Kales, cabbages, mustard greens and curly parsley add a lot of texture and color.

The hellebore’s soft blooms appear in winter to add a bit of delicate color to the shade garden. Hellebores have an unusually early bloom time and a vigorous growth habit, making them a self-seeding perennial favorite. It is considered a deer resistant plant. The evergreen leaves are a favorite of mine in floral arrangements and as a garden accent.

If you grow poinsettias as an outdoor garden plant, have a floating row cover ready for chilling temperatures. Keep in mind that they are native to Mexico and do not like being cold or too wet.

Feed cool-season flowers with a balanced fertilizer for growth and bloom.

Do not prune your roses this month. We’ll start in January. Do not feed them either.

Prune wisteria by cutting out long, undesirable branches. Prune the roots of the vines that have failed to bloom. Use only American wisteria as the Chinese version is invasive.

Gather remaining leaves for the compost pile and for winter mulch on beds. One inch of organic matter on top of the soil is adequate for most of the garden. Mulch the leaves by running over them with a lawnmower.


Now through March is prime tree planting time. Think about the eventual size of the trees you are considering. They really will get as big as the tag says they will, so plan accordingly. Other woody plants such as shrubs and vines may be planted now too.

Do much of your pruning during the cooler weather. Do not remove more than one-quarter to one-third of your trees branches in any one season. Pruning more than that will potentially reduce the trees ability to photosynthesize and feed itself. This creates stress, making it more prone to attack by pests and diseases.

Begin pruning fruit trees.


Feed cool season lawns but not warm season grasses (unless it’s Bermuda that has been overseeded with an annual rye grass).

You can enjoy some time off from mowing warm season grasses, but mow cool season lawns as needed.

Let your mower mulch the leaves and grass to add more organic material to your soil. If you have not changed your mower blade to a mulching one, they are available at most Home Depot stores.

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