By Steve Smith, Sunnyside Nursery
For the most part, December is a follow-up from November. Chores that didn’t get accomplished last month should be done this month. You can still plant bulbs, fertilize your lawn, clean up the beds and apply compost. Thanks to the mild fall weather, I still have a few leaves on my trees and a few perennials that haven’t melted down to the ground. Some of my beds I like to leave a “mess” until February and others I like to clean up and mulch as soon as everything is dormant. Gardening is not an absolute science, but rather a blend of personal preferences. In the end it all works out. Here are some thoughts for December.
Fruit and flowering trees: Clean up all leaves and dispose of properly. I believe in keeping gardening simple — so to that end I am recommending one or two applications of Bonide Orchard spray on one of those “nice days” this winter to help control insects and diseases. It is all natural and very safe to use. Don’t do any pruning until February.
Vegetables: It’s too late to plant veggies unless you have built a cloche so go ahead and spread compost over the soil and say good night for the winter. This will keep the weeds down over the winter and by spring you can rototill it into the soil and you will have the best garden in the neighborhood.
Flowers/containers: I know it is hard to believe, but you can still plant pansies and violas, lots of evergreen perennials and small shrubs that can add color and texture all winter. No need to look at empty pots.
Grapes and kiwis: Leave them alone until February for pruning, but hit them with some of that Bonide Orchard Spray for disease control this winter.
Roses: Remember “Hip high in the fall, knee high in the spring”. This is how you should be pruning most of your roses. Climbing roses need to be secured to their trellis and the long canes shortened up just a little bit. After pruning and thoroughly cleaning around the base of the rose, apply some lime and then pile up some mulch about 10-12 inches high to protect the graft union from a really ugly winter.
Ornamental grasses: There are two camps of grasses. Evergreen grasses like the sedges, fescues, blue oat grass and pampas grass should be left alone until late February and then cut close to the ground. Deciduous grasses like all the maiden grasses and Japanese forest grass can be cut down to the ground anytime now. It’s really that simple.
Finally, remember that there is something of interest every day of the year here in the Northwest. There is not a day that goes by that I can’t go out into the nursery and find some plant that is either in bloom or is sporting berries or interesting bark or an unusual branching pattern or wonderful fall color. There is no reason to go through our gray winters looking at a bare and boring garden. Plan an excursion to the nursery and see for yourself or visit a botanical garden like the Evergreen Arboretum and Gardens in Everett or the Bellevue Botanical Garden in Bellevue and see what a little creativity can do for your garden. Don’t settle for mundane when you can have exhilarating.