December 2011 Gardening Calendar
This is a once-a-month column provided to Wilson County News reader online.
The aphid populations in your pecan trees and the resultant honeydew falling on the lawn, the car, and the sidewalks should be declining now because of the cool weather. When the leaves fall this month; that will finally be the end of the issue for the year. The honeydew will eventually disappear or you can use a broom to apply a soapy solution and rinse it off. The car will have to go to the car wash.
Concerning the leaves, even the aphid infected pecan leaves; use them to good advantage in your landscape.
The easiest way to utilize leaves is to mow them where they fall on the lawn. The chopped leaves decompose very quickly. Even leaves that are not mowed decompose quickly.
Leaves are also useful as mulch. Spread them two to six inches deep in the shrub border or over newly planted tree roots to save water and keep the soil cool.
Leaves also make good material for the compost pile. Count them as brown material that will break down quickly if matched with an equal amount of green material such as weeds, or remnants from your summer flower garden.
The aphid situation this year was exceptional. There is always a supply of aphids ready to take advantage of opportunities. The weather and the condition of the pecans seemed to be ideal. We may not see such a widespread problem again for many years!
Spinach plants are available at area nurseries and onion transplants should also be available this month. Onions are one of the easiest vegetables to grow successfully in our home gardens.
I prepare the soil by adding one cup of 19-5-9 or 18-6-12 lawn fertilizer incorporated into the soil for every eight feet of row before planting. Add another cup as a side dressing every three to four weeks. If you plant the onions every two inches in the row you can harvest green onions in January and February. You eventually should have six inches between each remaining onion so they can mature large bulbs for harvest in late May. The leaves will fall over when they are ready to harvest.
Harvest broccoli heads this month but keep the plants well watered and fertilized and they will produce new side shoots for harvest later. Harvest spinach, lettuce, mustard, chard, collards, and other greens leaf by leaf as you need them. If you always leave two-thirds of the foliage they will last until May. Keep all greens fertilized on the same regime as the onions. Watch for cabbage loopers. Spray Bt when they appear.
It is not too late to plant winter annuals. Use cyclamen and primula in the shade and pansies in full sun. Protect them with slug and snail bait.
Sometime this month cold weather will arrive. Move the tropical plants into the greenhouse or other freeze protected location. Bougainvillea and fountain grass do not need winter watering but hibiscus, mandevilla, and most cold sensitive plants do.
Sometime if you are able to protect tomatoes from the first freeze, there will be two or three more weeks of good weather. If you think it’s time to give up on tomatoes, pick all the fruit before the next predicted freeze. The full size tomatoes will ripen in the house. Use the dark green small fruit for fried green tomatoes or relish. If there is a large amount of fruit store it in boxes or brown paper sacks. Sort through the fruit every week and remove any rotting tomatoes.
December is still a good time for planting trees and shrubs. The roots have time to grow before the stressful time of summer arrives. Dig the hole as deep as the root ball and two or three times as wide. If you are using a well adapted species it is best to refill the hole with the native soil. Mulch over the root ball and run the hose slowly to fill in the planting hole with water and water after that through soaking every time the soil dries under the mulch.
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