December Gardening Activities - Region 4

Gardening Tips for December

Southeast and Mid-Atlantic Gardens

Learn2Grow Region 4 Map

States in the region:

Maryland, Delware, DC, New Jersey, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina
Virginia, Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, Louisiana, Texas (Eastern)
Oklahoma (Eastern), Arkansas and Tennessee

Key Issues for December

  • Delight children this holiday season with the gift of gardening! Growums garden kits are designed to show kids and adults alike how awesome and easy it is to grow their own vegetables and herbs – and they encourage kids to eat healthy foods! Six fun garden themes are available (Herb, Pizza, Ratatouille, Salad, Stir-Fry and Taco), as well as three mini kits (Fruit Cup, Melon Blast and Pumpkin Patch). Visit Growums.com to learn more!
  • Consider buying a balled-and-burlapped or container Christmas tree that you can enjoy inside your home, then make a permanent part of your landscape after the holidays. Keep the tree outside until you’re ready to bring it indoors (7-10 days inside). Plant it after the New Year – and remember to water!
  • Help your cut Christmas tree last through the holidays: Keep it moist and choose a spot away from drying air ducts and any heat sources, including TVs, radiators and fireplaces. (Remember, dry plant material is a fire hazard! Keep your trees watered and fresh.)
  • Enliven your dull winter garden or patio: Fill outdoor planters with cut greens. (Branch cuttings of holly, pine, spruce, juniper and other greens and berries may even increase bird activity on your deck or balcony.) Just be sure that the containers and urns you use are winter-hardy – ones that won’t crack or shatter in freezing temperatures.
  • Give a personalized, inexpensive gift for the holidays that keeps on growing: seeds from your garden! Homemade holiday cards and ornaments containing seeds are as fun to make as they are to give – and grow!
  • Deck the halls with a traditional holiday favorite: the poinsettia. Today’s beauties come in a variety of colors, including the classic red, as well as shades of white, pink, purple and mottled/spotted. (Fun fact: The poinsettia is actually a medium-sized deciduous shrub native to western Mexico!)
  • Buy cyclamen, amaryllis (in bud) and other holiday plants early, so you’ll have weeks – not days – of enjoyment.
  • Try the Norfolk Island pine as a containerized Christmas tree. This tropical plant is native to Norfolk Island east of Australia. (A bright-light indoor spot is a must for this beauty!)
  • Trim English ivy or pull off long sections that are invading parts of your home’s siding, brick, windowsills and garden.
  • Take care of our feathered friends. A source of fresh water and food will encourage them to your landscape. Keep feeders stocked so birds don’t have to search for food. If you have a birdbath, consider getting a birdbath heater to avoid frozen water in the colder areas of your region. If you’ve never tried feeding birds before, go the festive route: Creating a holiday bird-feeding tree is a fun way to get started!
  • Cut back unsightly perennials to about 3-4 inches tall and mulch your planting beds to prevent frost-heaving. Do leave some of those dried perennial seed heads alone, though – they’ll help feed the songbirds. Coneflowers, black-eyed Susans and blackberry lilies are just a few great natural seed sources for birds.
  • Watch for the frost-heaving of cool-season annuals or other small-rooted plants you had planted in fall. Push them back into the soil and apply mulch around them to help ensure soil temps and moisture levels remain constant.
  • Establish self-sufficient plants. Spot-check any newly planted trees, shrubs and perennials for watering needs. If there’s been no rain for a week, you need to drag out the hose and water your plants. Remember, newly installed sod needs water, too!
  • Take cuttings from various evergreens and other plants in your yard for creating homemade indoor holiday arrangements and decorations.
  • Lightly and discreetly prune Southern magnolia, juniper, golden falsecypress and hollies and use the sprigs for inexpensive wreaths and swags.
  • Plant some cabbage and kale in cold frames or hoop houses. Before an expected frosty night, cover your outdoor crops with frost cloth. (The cloth will help protect your plants until nighttime temps drop below 26 degrees.)
  • Get a compost keeper for the kitchen. (Consider adding it to your holiday “wish list.”) Some produce scraps you’d otherwise throw away can be used to make great compost for your spring garden.
  • Consider using American holly in your landscape as a tall, elegant screen or hedgerow, or as a lovely corner accent. A plant for all seasons, the glossy, dark-green leaves of this evergreen tree are beautiful year-round – especially in fall and winter when contrasted with its clusters of cheerful red (or yellow) berries. Holiday bonus: The foliage and fruits are highly desired as decorative cut sprigs this time of year.
  • Take precautions against browsing winter animals, including deer, rabbits, mice and voles. Deer fencing, trunk wrappings, mesh wire, scented oils, a good guard dog or a hungry barn cat are just a few options.
  • Winterize your lawn equipment. After that final mow of the season, run your lawn mower dry of any remaining fuel, hose off grass clippings, pull the spark plugs, then park the mower in the shed or garage for a well-deserved winter’s nap. (You’ll be a step ahead next spring if you have the blades sharpened over winter, too.)
  • Take some preventative winter care in the garden to avoid ice and snow loads that can damage multistemmed evergreens like upright arborvitae, yews, boxwoods and junipers. Gather all branches together with twine, so wet snows and ice can’t bend and separate them, causing them to split.
  • Walk around your garden (while the weather’s still acceptable) and make any final notations about this year’s gardening successes and failures. By the time spring rolls around, you’ll have forgotten about the good, the bad and the ugly! Keep your pictures and notes in one accessible location – like in a garden journal. (You’ll be thankful you did when gardening catalogs start appearing in your mailbox.)
  • Be on the lookout for any bagworm bags in your garden and landscape. Handpick to remove as needed.
  • Help your houseplants in winter by allowing them to “rest” for a few months. Avoid fertilizing until late February.