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At first glance, there is little to do in the garden in December. But this is deceptive. You should, if you have not already done so, winterize your garden and prepare it for next spring. Everything you do now will be ready in spring - so you will have more time to enjoy the nice weather and the sun on your balcony, in your garden or on your terrace.
You should have prepared the lawn for winter in November. If not, it is high time before the first snow: cut the grass blades back to 5 or 6 centimeters, rake the grass clippings, remove the leaves or moss and fertilize the lawn or sprinkle it with limestone. Afterwards, clean and grease your lawn mower and store it in a dry place in the garden shed or basement so that next spring it will be ready for the first lawn cutting of the year.
You can use the grass clippings or leaves to protect your plants from cold and frost - or pile them up as winter quarters for animals in your garden, such as hedgehogs or insects.
Until the ground freezes, that is, until about the beginning of December, you can still plant some plants in the ornamental garden. For example, hardy ornamental plants such as forsythia or butterfly bushes in pots or bare-root hedge plants, climbers, deciduous trees, roses, perennials or shrubs in the garden. You can also still plant bulbs of early-flowering plants on days without frost, including
You need to protect climbing roses, roses in the bed or shrub roses from the cold. Pile the soil around them and protect all shoots with brushwood. Prune hardy ornamental shrubs now, but do not prune ornamental plants with soft wood, such as hydrangeas or roses, until next spring. Remember to water evergreens regularly during dry periods. Winter-flowering ornamentals such as Christmas roses also need plenty of water in winter. Before the first big snow, tie the branches of shrubs together at the top to prevent them from breaking under the weight of the snow. Prune branches of spruces, pines and firs only if they could break under a large snow load, and only on frost-free days - conifers are actually pruned in summer.
You should harvest frost-sensitive vegetables such as beets, carrots, celery or radishes no later than the beginning of December. If you harvest winter vegetables, you should never do so when it is frosty - regardless of whether the vegetables are frost hardy or frost sensitive. You should harvest these winter vegetables now:
With the onset of winter, there is little you can plant. In the open ground, depending on the climate and weather, at most you can plant winter purslane (miner's lettuce). With a cold frame, greenhouse or raised bed, you could plant vegetables like lettuce, spinach or winter purslane that grow quickly. In the winter months, a raised bed with a cold frame attachment is useful because the vegetables are protected from the cold, frost and snow, and the soil is about five degrees warmer than without the attachment.
If you leave winter vegetables such as leeks or Brussels sprouts in the bed, you should mound the soil around them to protect them from cold and frost. Outdoor vegetables should be watered on warmer days if the soil is dry. It is best to do this before lunch so that the water will percolate until the temperature drops at night. If your winter vegetables grow in a cold frame or greenhouse, you should ventilate regularly because of the high humidity.
If you have harvested a vegetable bed and leave it empty, the soil will dry out and not receive nutrients. Therefore, cover the bed with a thin layer of horn shavings, compost or leaves so that you can replant the soil next spring.
Unfortunately, you can no longer harvest anything in December. If you have stored a lot of fruit, you should check the apples, pears or quinces once a week for bruises, diseases, pests and damages. If you ventilate the fruit storage regularly, the ripening gas ethylene glycol can escape, which accelerates the ripening process or the wilting process of the fruit.
If you are lucky and live in a climatically favored place, you can still put bare-root and robust fruit trees and fruit bushes until the middle of the month on frost-free days: For example, apple trees, pear trees, cherry trees or plum trees and raspberry bushes, currant bushes or gooseberry bushes.
If you did not prune the fruit trees in November, you should do it now. Thin out the crowns of older fruit trees and remove dead, leafless or diseased branches. You should also prune back young trees to keep them growing regularly. It is best to do this close to the trunk and before the first frost so that the cuts can close. Freshly planted trees or shrubs should be watered and tied down so they can withstand winter storms, protected from frost with mulch and have their trunks wrapped with breathable jute or straw.
The most you can do outside in December is to sow chives - and only in a greenhouse or cold frame. But you can sow a lot in the herb garden in the kitchen, including
Basil, oregano, rosemary, sage and thyme need a lot of light and feel most comfortable in a south-facing window. The other herbs love semi-shaded spots. With the exception of basil, herbs prefer unheated locations. Water your kitchen herbs only when the soil feels dry, but spray them with water regularly. Herbs should never be submerged in water, so good drainage is important. Watch out for pests.
Despite the cold, frost and snow, your garden or terrace does not have to look bare in winter. For example, in December you can plant winter flowers such as Christmas roses, horned violets or pansies, heather plants, ornamental evergreen grasses or dwarf evergreen shrubs that will bring you joy throughout the winter months.
Plant flowers, grasses and shrubs in frost-proof pots and wrap the pots in bubble wrap, straw matting, fleece or wool to protect your plants from frost. Place all tubs and pots on a wooden or Styrofoam board to protect from the creeping ground cold. Mound the soil around all plants and protect them with a layer of mulch, such as leaves or brushwood. Water the plants regularly, preferably in the morning of frost-free days, and check them regularly for diseases or pests.
The air in the room is dry in winter. Many houseplants do not like this very much. That's why you should spray all plants with water regularly, but only water them as soon as the soil feels dry. Exotic houseplants from tropical or subtropical zones should be watered with lukewarm water. Be careful not to let water accumulate in the saucer. Just as important as humidity is fresh air. That's why you should ventilate briefly but intensively several times a day. This is good for your plants and for you. Unlike plants, many pests feel particularly comfortable in dry air. Therefore, check your houseplants once a week for scale insects, spider mites or mealy bugs. For the winter months - and the upcoming holidays - we recommend these houseplants:
Houseplants do not need fertilizer during their rest. So you should fertilize only those plants that bloom and therefore need nutrients. Once a month is quite enough.
Unlike other houseplants, winter-flowering azaleas need a lot of water during the winter months. Therefore, water them abundantly once or even better twice a week.
You should have winterized the balcony in November. If not, you should do it now: clean garden tools, repair them, oil them and store them in a dry place, clean garden furniture, maintain it and store it in the garden shed or cellar and clean the grill including the grate. Check all water pipes. They can freeze and burst, so you should drain outdoor pipes and cut off the water supply before the first frost.
You can find more tips in «Winterize the House: What You Need to Bear in Mind When It's Cold, Wet and Snowy!». For example, how to clean rain gutter, clean floor drains, turn off water or clean sidewalks and check lamps.