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Weekly Gardening Tips for Your Area


Dec. 2013 To-Do List: Lower South

Home Depot

Christmas tree and decorationsThe typically mild weather we enjoy in the Lower South in December makes this a good time to continue planting shrubs, trees, and vines. if you’ve been harvesting sweet potatoes, Irish potatoes, and other root crops, store them in a do-it-yourself mini root cellar or in boxes of sand kept in a dark location. Pick sprigs of fresh herbs to put in pretty bottles filled with your favorite vinegar for gift giving. Bouquets of fresh herbs tied with colorful ribbon also make thoughtful gifts for hosts of holiday parties. Tie a recipe card for a special dish to the herbal bouquet.

  • Plant sweet peas when the weather is good, and carefully remove any competing weeds when the seedlings come up. Watch for weeds around emerging larkspurs, poppies, and other fall-sown flowers, too.
  • Plant roses and continue planting bulbs.
  • To prolong the flowers on paperwhite narcissus you’ve forced, put the bulbs in a cool spot. Water sparingly if they’re growing in soil. If they’re in water, keep the water level above all the roots.
  • Harvest tender crops like tomatoes, basil, and sweet potatoes before a hard feeze. Pull up the old stems and roots and replace them with a cover crop such as peas, clover, or vetch. In the spring, till the cover crop under for green manure.
  • Plant violas and pansies for color; these easy-to-grow flowers prefer cool temperatures. For maximum impact, use only one or two colors per bed or container.
  • If you’re having a problem with borers, make a paste of wood ash and water to spread on tree trunks.
  • Prune evergreen boughs to bring indoors for holiday decorations; they’ll fill a room with their spicy scent. Add red Nandina or holly berries for accent color.
  • Plant woody vines like Carolina Jessamine, American wisteria, and cross vine, training them on arbors or other sturdy supports and securing them with twine or plant ties. Be sure you don’t plant invasives like Chinese wisteria, which can take over if they escape the garden.
  • Start cuttings of woody plants by dipping the ends in rooting hormone and inserting them in boxes filled with sand. Let the cuttings remain outdoors, protecting them when needed with white plastic or floating row cover. Keep the sand moist and be patient. It may take several months for the cuttings to grow to transplant size.
  • Make successive sowings of cool season, leafy greens like spinach, arugula, and kale. Keep the plants protected with floating row cover during freezes, and you can continue to enjoy fresh salad makings.
  • Onions can remain in the ground and survive through the winter. Turnips, cabbages, collards, and other kohl plants will be okay down to 10 degrees F.
  • Harvest broccoli as the heads develop. Remember they won’t get as big as the ones you see in grocery stores, since our region gets relatively short periods of cool weather.
  • Check the Home Depot website for seeds and seed sprouting supplies. Popular varieties sell out early, so plan ahead and be ready to order or visit your local store.


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