Gardening Matters

Can you believe this December weather? My daffodils are all up with leaves six inches tall or more. My hydrangeas don’t know whether to bud out or not, and the dogwoods are considering a very early bloom. I suppose we ought to be grateful for this last spell of such pleasant weather, but it’s causing a lot of confusion in the garden this year.

Let’s take a moment to consider what we need to be doing in the garden at this late season.

If you haven’t planted any bulbs and would like to, now is the time to do so. With this warm weather the soil will still be workable. The bulbs will quickly adapt and begin getting ready for springtime blooming.

If you planted any bulbs this fall take a moment to make sure they have sufficient water to help carry them through the coming weeks when cold weather returns. Also, you should lightly top dress your new bulbs with fertilizer if you didn’t include fertilizer when you planted them.

Clean and, if necessary, sharpen your tools before winter storage. Remove any dirt or general “crunk” on your tools and then wipe them down with a mild (5 percent) solution of Clorox in water. This will kill off any fungus/molds/diseases that might easily over-winter on your tools. Use a file or whet stone to sharpen any edges on cutting or chopping tools. Lubricate any moving parts on your tools with light oil or WD-40.

Now is a good time to transplant any trees that you have been planning to move or replant from pots.

Use these nice days to get all of the fallen leaves up off your lawn. Even in winter your grass needs sunlight to stay alive.

Now is a good time to till in or turn under any soil amendments such as organic materials, lime or sand that your garden needs. This will give beneficial microorganisms in your garden a chance to move into this turned soil and be ready to assist in growth when spring comes.

Consider getting a soil test if you haven’t had one done in a while. Contact your county’s Agricultural Extension Office for information on this.

As with trees, this is a good time to plant any shrubs you have been planning to add to your landscape. If the soil is not yet frozen your shrubs will get a good start on adapting to their new home and be ready for spring growth.

If you are planning on planting any cool season vegetables in January or February you should prepare their beds now while the soil is still easily workable. Add any amendments and fertilizer you plan on using now so that it can work its way into the soil of your planting beds.

All of that will keep you busy and out of harm’s way while the rest of the family does the house decorating for the holidays. I would rather be in the garden on these mild days than hanging greenery and mistletoe all about the house.

And, finally, it’s not too late to find that nice teak garden bench and have it delivered to your favorite garden writer’s home before Christmas. (Optionally, I do have a nice pick-up truck and can go get it myself if you’ll just let me know the correct address.)

I hope all you have a wonderful holiday season and a most happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.

Jeff Coghill has been gardening in DeKalb County for over 35 years. He has killed at least one of every plant he has tried before getting another to thrive. He is a volunteer at the Dunwoody Nature Center and works closely with the Master Gardeners there.

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