Sunday, 6 December 2015

December Garden & Greenhouse Ramblings

December is here, with wonky weather and winter solstice right around the corner. Yuletide preparations abound, family and friends gather together from near and far, as we rejoice in the spirit of the holiday season.

Garden thoughts and holiday ideas for you to ponder...  

With the first day of December, also came the first frost free day that we have had for weeks! The rain is back, sun is gone, and thus, so is the frost and cold weather. Oh, how I love the winter rains!

Now that the ground has thawed out again, there is much we can do...

In the yard and garden... 

Rake up your wonderful black gold... Okay, so it does not look like black gold yet, it just looks like soggy, wet leaves, but they are a gift to us gardeners, for sure!

I like to save my leaves in a big pile and let them rot down a bit before using them in the spring and summer garden as mulch around my berries and veggies.  However, you can also layer them on your beds now, top with a bit of compost or manure to get things cooking, and the worms will do all the work of breaking them down, making lovely black for your gardens. Shredding the leaves first helps them break down faster.

For those of you who have read about leaving them lie, not raking... well, that really depends on the style of your yard. If you have a natural woodland yard, lots of trees and under-plantings, but no lawn, this is a great way to go. The leaves will first insulate and then slowly break down, naturally feeding the under-growth. However, if you live in a cityscape with a lawn and garden beds, you really need to deal with those leaves. If you leave them lie, especially here on the soggy wet coast, you will have fungal issues, critters like voles and mice, plus dead patches of lawn. If you really do not want to rake your leaves, mulch them really fine with your lawn mower and leave the bits lie.    

Cut back perennials that have now turned black, brown, or soggy.

Cut back the branches of roses, even on the tree forms, from 6 - 12" tall.
Cut back your rose bush stems/branches to about 12 inches high to prevent breakage in heavy rains, wind or snow. This does not have to be a good pruning to the outward facing eye, that is done later in Feb/March, right now you are just taking off bulk. This especially applies to the hybrid teas, which tend to make long, long branches. With tree form roses, cut back the stems if they are the upright kind but be careful cutting back weeping forms.  

Run a hoe over new weeds as they germinate in beds and pathways.

Plant your bare root fruit trees, potted shrubs, and perennials.

Fruit trees can be pruned now, while they are dormant ... between now and the end of February.

Sow your flower seeds, and bulbs if you have not yet done so. Do not do muck about in your garden if the soil is sodden, as it will get compacted, but if it is dry enough to work with, plant away!

 Echinacea in a bed of Coreopsis 
(Coneflower in Tickseed)

Flower seeds that can and should be sown in fall ...

Perennials and biennials like larkspur, echinacea, rudbeckia, poppies, hollyhocks, foxgloves, nigella, and verbascum...
There are sure to be many more as perennials often benefit from cold stratification in order to germinate. If you find that you sow seeds in spring with less than stellar results, try sowing those varieties in fall instead, and likely you will have much better success.

Annuals such as sweet peas, pansies, ornamental cabbage, snap dragons, calendula.

Decorate for the holidays... 

Gather some branches and cones for your planter to make a festive holiday urn. 

Once this crazy winter rain storm has passed head out to the yard and woods. Trim your evergreens for boughs, pick up broken twigs and branches (esp ones with lichens or moss for visual appeal), gather pine cones, and seed pods to decorate your yuletide planters. 

All natural and lovely bird seed wreath

Don't forget the birds!  For three great recipes, see my post HERE! 

In the greenhouse...

Remove yellowing foliage and spent blooms on geraniums, roses, etc...

Water sparingly, plants are not using much water now as they are not in an active growing season.

 Do not feed plants until February.

Keep potted citrus on the dry and cool side.

Sow some petunias, calendulas, annual candytuft, pansies, sweet alyssum, cornflowers, stocks, scabiosa, verbena, pinks, and daisies.

Check regularly for pests. Put up yellow sticky sheets to keep an eye on pest populations. This gives you a heads up if you have pests and also if you have a sudden increase in pests.

What to do indoors... 

Read your notes from this past spring and summer garden journal. Make notes of what you liked so that you can do it again, what thrived and what didn't. Make plans for next years garden.

Plan your garden and planter colour scheme for next year, if you go for that kind of thing, and I do! I sometimes change my mind later on, adding or subtracting something, but I like to start with an idea or a plan.  Contact me if you have any special preferences for this spring or summer, so that I have to source them out and bring them in.

Order seeds now that you have made some plans and read your thoughts. Some of my favourite seed companies are ...

The Cottage Gardener in Ontario. Heirloom seeds from a great mom and pop company. I order from these guys annually, have done so for years, and also sell their seeds in spring. The packaging is pretty basic and the seed info is not on the package, so you need to refer back to their website or their lovely catalogue. I really like their seeds and the service is always fantastic.

Baker Creek in the States. Yes, I know, not Canadian, but they have a terrific selection of heirloom and open-pollinated seeds.  

Heritage Harvest is a Canadian company, based in Manitoba. They are all organic, heirloom, heritage, and open-pollinated seeds. Really great selection. 

Renee's Garden Seeds is another US company that I really, really like. Their seeds are of great quality, service is terrific, and they have trial gardens in varied areas so that they know what works and what doesn't.
Pop some Paper Whites into mason jars with a bit of pretty stones and water to force some blooms in time for Christmas. Nothing prettier than fresh greens and white, scented blossoms in winter.

 Make homemade gifts for friends and family.

Wishing you all a very merry Christmas
and happy holidays.

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