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Review and Brainstorm

December is the month that we rest on our laurels and enjoy the holidays. But we can still enjoy a little bit of gardening in between the winter rains and colder weather. Some years we only have light freezes and some years we’re frozen solid for a week or more, so take advantage of the occasional sun break weather.

 

December is also a really good time to review your notes from the last growing season. What worked and what didn’t? Did this year’s garden spark any plans for future gardens? Write these things down so you can refer to them later.

Finish Mulching

If you’re not already done, use any available mulch to protect the soil and your more tender plants. Wood chips are readily available, along with your more precious home-made compost. Mulch will protect the soil from rain erosion, suppress winter weeds, add to soil fertility, and improve soil structure. Mulch will also help keep the soil moist later in the year.

 

https://s3.wp.wsu.edu/uploads/sites/403/2015/03/wood-chips.pdf

Overwinter Selected Plants

If you’re lucky enough to have a cold frame, you can use it to overwinter some hardy vegetables or potted semi-hardy plants.

 

Cold frames are great for hardening off your spring vegetable starts and getting an early start on the growing season.

 

https://s3.wp.wsu.edu/uploads/sites/2073/2014/03/072012.pdf

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Photo used with permission

Extend the growing season with a cold frame.

Bring Blooms Indoors

For some winter cheer, you can force branches of spring-flowering shrubs indoors. Branches placed in water in a warm room will bloom with these simple instructions.

 

https://s3.wp.wsu.edu/uploads/sites/2083/2021/02/02-28-ForcingBranches-Barany.pdf

Propagate from Cuttings

You can take hardwood cuttings once they are fully dormant. Spring-flowering shrubs are fairly easy to propagate. Take 6-8" of one-year-old wood with at least two nodes. Be sure you keep the orientation of up versus down. It doesn’t work very well if you try and get them to grow roots out of the top rather than the bottom!

 

https://pubs.extension.wsu.edu/propagating-deciduous-and-evergreen-shrubs-trees-vines-with-stem-cuttings

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Photo by Mark Shirley.. Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Grape vines propagate easily from cuttings.

Check Health of Stored Bulbs

You also might want to check on any bulbs you’re storing. Mold and other problems can get started without proper ventilation. Bulbs can provide a tasty treat for rodents if you’re storing them in an outbuilding.

Authored by Elizabeth Post, Island County Master Gardener
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