Deciduous trees and shrubs can still be planted and transplanted.
Plant bare root trees, shrubs and roses during their winter dormancy. This allows time for a healthy root system to develop without competition from the top part of the plant.
Dormant roots of asparagus are available now in some nurseries. Consider male-only plant varieties for greater harvest. Plant asparagus in areas with good drainage such as raised beds or hillsides.
Plant the tulips and spring bulbs you forgot you have stored in the refrigerator. Spring bulbs should be planted by this month so a good root system will develop to nourish the bulb before it sends up leaves and flowers in spring.
While grocery shopping, you can pick up bulbs of Jerusalem artichokes, elephant garlic and shallots to plant in your garden.
Take a soil test instead of guessing what the garden needs and wasting money on unnecessary amendments. Unneeded amendments do not improve the health of the garden and, in some cases, may be detrimental. Add recommended amendments such as sulfur, lime and organic compost. Amending the soil now allows time for amendments to settle in and change the soil for spring plantings.
Wood ashes from the fireplace, used sparingly, are a good source of nutrients for the garden, especially phlox, sweet William, peony and spring-flowering bulbs.
Prune outdoor limbs or branches damaged by storms. The damaged parts should be removed immediately. Remove suckers and water sprouts, too.
Prune open-grown apples and pears (but not those trained or espaliered against walls).
Remove older canes of blackberries.
Cut back asparagus fronds and mulch crowns with hay or straw.
Midwinter is the best time to prune edible and ornamental vines to prevent bleeding of the sap from the cut stems.
Prune formal deciduous hedges. Informal deciduous hedges that have grown leggy can be rejuvenated this month with some radical pruning. Cut every second stem close to ground level. Next year, when new growth has sprouted from the base, the remaining stems can be cut down.
The dead tops of many perennials can be removed.
Prune climbing roses now; cut away diseased or damaged growth and tie any new shoots to their support. Prune older, flowered-side shoots back by two-thirds of their length.
Insulate outdoor spigots or turn them off at the main. Also drain and pack away unneeded hoses.
Turn off and drain sprinkler systems by removing the head from the sprinkler at the lowest point of your lawn or install a sprinkler-end drain.
Winter rains tend to make you forget about watering your garden. However, plants and shrubs growing beneath large evergreens or under the eaves of the house may be bone dry by this time.
Reduce watering of houseplants.
Water in your greenhouse sparingly, early in the day.
For those with outdoor ponds, be sure to add water as needed to keep aquatic plants from drying out.
Check overwintered plants in the basement and garage to check for possible water needs.
Don’t store firewood in the house as insects can come in with it. Leave the wood outside until you are ready to use it. Burn the oldest wood first so that pest populations do not get a head start.
Carefully plan your vegetable garden for next year so you ensure good crop rotation to avoid a buildup of pests and diseases.
Keep mice away from stored produce.
Protect all young trees from rabbit damage by placing wire around the base of the tree.
Apply dormant oil to fruit trees to control over-wintering pest problems such as aphids and other scale insects. You will need to access all the nooks and crannies where they hide.
Apply broadleaf herbicides to control winter annual and perennial weeds. Use only as directed.
Gather up fallen leaves from around the base of rose bushes that suffered from blackspot or rust this summer to reduce the chance of infection next year.
Check camellias and azaleas for spider mites and treat with insecticidal soap if mites are found.
Check houseplants and any plants brought indoors for the winter for insects that may have hitched a ride. With the heat on, they can multiply quickly. If tackled before they get out of hand, non-chemical methods are usually successful: a simple shower, insecticidal soap spray (as directed on label) or, with the most tenacious (like mealybugs), sometimes an alcohol swab and Q-tip.
On the coldest days of winter, give yourself a break and spend some time inside looking out. Like us, our garden has earned this well-deserved rest.
In your garden journal, review your notes from this past year and devise strategies to overcome problems you faced last year. Draw up a landscape design that can be installed in the spring.
Shorter days, the possibility of rain, colder temperatures and the activities of the holidays tend to put gardening on the back burner … but don’t totally neglect it.
Continue mulching and composting chores. Your plants will love the added benefits and mulching landscape plants now may help them survive the winter. If you don’t already have one, build or buy a compost bin!
Cover compost bins with a piece of old metal roofing or some plastic sheeting to prevent the compost from becoming too cold and wet to rot down.
For those with heavy soils, this is the perfect time to dig, so winter frosts can help break down newly turned clods. Wait until the ground is dry. This is also the ideal opportunity to work in organic matter like the contents of the compost heap/bin(s), well-rotted manure or composted bark.
Give gardening tools from your local Co-op store and subscriptions to landscaping magazines as Christmas gifts.
If you successfully kept last year’s plant alive and have been keeping it in 14 hours of darkness since September, your Christmas cactus should be ready to bring back into the living room by Dec. 1.
Prevent Christmas gift plants such as azaleas, Christmas cacti and indoor cyclamen from going rapidly over a cliff by keeping them cool at 55-59 degrees. Orchids and poinsettias require a minimum temperature of 60-66 degrees. Forced bulbs such as daffodils and hyacinths prefer even lower temperatures.
Saved seeds left to dry can now be cleaned and packaged. If you have enough, a packet of homegrown seeds makes an ideal little gift slipped into a Christmas card.
The more recently cut a Christmas tree is the better it will hold up indoors. To test the freshness of a Christmas tree, pull lightly at a needle. If the needle comes off easily, the tree is not very fresh. The best way to assure a fresh tree is to go to a local "choose ‘n cut" tree farm. Go to southernchristmastrees.org/ALfor a grower near you.
Check stored fruit and vegetables for signs of rot and promptly dispose of any affected.
Check that greenhouse heaters are working correctly.
Ventilate your greenhouse whenever there’s a sunny day to keep the atmosphere dry.
Glossy leaved houseplants such as philodendrons, rubber plants and palms should be sponged off periodically to allow them to breathe. Plants which have fuzzy, textured or other non-glossy-type leaves should be set in the sink and sprayed gently with room temperature water until the dust is cleaned away. Be sure the foliage is allowed to dry completely.
Provide your houseplants with extra humidity by grouping plants together or by setting the pots on leak proof trays filled with moistened pebbles.
Coastal lawns if not already dormant will soon be. Continue to mow, rake leaves and water during dry spells.
Keep clearing leaves off the lawn to let the light in and prevent dead patches from appearing.
Stay off frozen lawns!!!
Net your pond to keep the water clear of leaves.
Removing pumps and filters from ponds and water features will help prevent them from being damaged by freezing water during the winter.
Throw a rubber ball on to the surface of your pond so an air hole for fish can easily be made without having to smash ice.
Tidy up sheds and clean pots and trays making them ready for the next season.
Check the security of your garden shed. This is particularly important in winter when you visit it less often.
If you didn’t do it in previous months, or you have used some tools since putting them away for the season, take a day to clean, oil and store garden tools and equipment such as shovels, sprayers, wheelbarrows, etc. Give hand tools a wipe of linseed oil on the wooden and metal areas to help prevent rusting.
Now is a good time to shop around and bargain for some good prices on equipment you will need later.
Send your lawnmower and other power tools to be serviced and sharpened while they are in less demand.
Once deciduous plants and climbers have cleared, repair garden structures.
Wash all pots and seed trays so they are ready for spring sowing.
Become a Master Gardener! Call your county Extension office for more details.
Attention new urban farmers: Chickens need to be high and dry. If your run gets muddy, add a few bags of sand or put down wood chips or hay/straw to give the hens a place to roam above the muck. When it gets dryer, they’ll love having a place to hunt for bugs!
If you are thinking about becoming a beekeeper, now is the time to order bees. Contact your local beekeeping association for more information. Your local Alabama Cooperative Extension Office can point you in the right direction.
If you potted up some bulbs such as hyacinths or daffodils last September for winter forcing, keep an eye on them. Make sure they remain moist and in the dark until they have established their root systems. If they have already filled their containers with roots and new top growth has begun, bring them into the house and set them in a cool room in indirect light. After a week or so, move them into bright light and watch them go to town!
If you have pottery you won’t be using for winter, it is usually a good idea to empty them and store them where they will either be dry or free of frost. Terra cotta is especially prone to breaking when frozen.
Lift and store dahlia tubers once their leaves are blackened by frost.
Prepare the ground while it’s dry for woody plants you plan to install. If you wait to dig a hole until after it rains, the too-wet soil drives out air essential to good root growth.
During dry and frozen times, fill the birdbath. You don’t have to haul out the hose; just fill a pitcher with water. Some gardeners invest in birdbath warmers to keep the water from freezing.
Hang suet cakes and keep bird feeders topped off to attract birds that will in turn eat pests in your garden. n