Sunday, December 12, 2010

December Groundwork

Sorry to be so late, we have been busy with the our garden tour and we just had to take a few days off. Here we are again, almost at years end, except for a few frosty nights and some frost bitten tomatoes, the December weather has been perfect. Here's a quick run down of the schedule for this months garden activities.
  • Have frost cloth ready in case of a predicted freeze for frost sensitive plants. Use frost cloth or old sheets (we double our layers and keep our fingers crossed!) to cover tomatoes and peppers. If possible, cover all the way to the ground to keep warmth in. Wait until the later part of February to trim any affected frost damage.Winter vegetables will usually survive the frosts. Watch your local weather reports. The last frost date is usually March 15th.
  • Citrus trees begin to ripen, be ready to harvest sweet, juicy, lemons, oranges and grapefruit.
  • Continue to sow or transplant cool weather vegetables. Root crops, lettuces and members of the cabbage family can be planted until early spring. Favorite salad ingredients can continue to produce until the temperatures heat up in late spring.
  • Examine your crops for pests, look under leaves and around the base of the plant for looper-worms, especially on your cole crops. Hand pick if possible. If the little green caterpillars get out of hand, most nurseries recommend B.T. as an organic control. If birds are a problem, place netting over garden area.
  • Local nurseries will begin to stock bare-root plants (roses and fruit trees) at the end of December. Plan and prepare a nice sunny location for planting next month.  Pre-dig your hole and add a little mulch, compost and gypsum or sand. Fill the hole with water to soften the soil in preparation for the new tree roots. Research your southwest desert varieties. Choose varieties that require no more than 250 chilling hours.
  • If you like tomatoes and peppers, try some heirloom varieties from seed this year. Plant seeds to produce your own transplants for spring planting. Sow seeds indoors around the end of the month. Choose varieties that will do well in our desert climate. ( Transplants should be ready to plant outside from mid-Feb to mid-March.
  • Feed vegetables a good, well balanced fertilizer every couple of weeks. Don't over fertilize herbs if they look healthy and green.
  • Start collecting fall leaves for composting. We usually mow ours up and catch them in a bag. They are small and ready to go in the compost pile. Don't forget to ask your neighbor for their leaves, they keep well in bags for many months. Layer leaves with the summer's bagged lawn clippings, and other organic material for fast decomposition. Spray with a little water and let it rot!
  • Prepare beds for spring planting. If you have a new area that you'll be planting, layer 4 or 5 inches of manure and let it rest for awhile. In a few weeks, you can add compost and amendments and work that in. Don't work the soil when it's wet.
  • Deadhead spent flowers. Roses, especially will give you beautiful blooms this month. Prepare for pruning next month when you will be striping all leaves and blooms off the canes.
  • Gather seed catalogs, choose and order seeds for spring sowing.
That's it, it's time to take a break and enjoy time with friends and family.  Have a great holiday season, we'll get back together in the new year!