December

Luffa Aegyptiaca or Luffa sponge after being skinned
Luffa Aegyptiaca or Luffa sponge after being skinned
What's Growin On In December


The days are short, the nights are long and the weather is crisp. 


We have chances for frost, so we need to break out frost protection gear.  For our citrus trees, we add several timely strings of incandescent christmas lights to keep the immediate temperature warmer.

Before first frost, bring tender tropicals that cannot benefit from incandescent lighting into a greenhouse or other sheltered location to maintain warmth.

Apply horticultural oil to fruit trees.  Horticultural Oils are petrolium or vegetable based lightweight oils. These oils are applied as a dilute spray on plant surfaces to control insects and mites. Neem oil is a popular choice.


December 21 or 22 is the first day of winter each year.


Mangos may bloom during December, January, February and March.  Sapodilla may bloom during December, January, February, March and April.


Divide and Conquer


If you haven't divided the perennials, all is not lost. Perennials let you know they need division when flowers are smaller than normal, centers of the clumps that are hollow and dead, or when the bottom foliage is sparse and poor. If you must wait for a cloudy day with potential of rain in the forecast. 


Feeding:


Add a bit of nitrogen fertilizer to stimulate growth for the veggie garden.

In December, January, February, March, April, May, June, July fertilize figs with soluble fertilizer if there was minimal growth the prior year.


Harvesting:


Pick citrus, but only as needed. Citrus stores best on the tree as the fruit gets sweeter as the season moves on. Grapefruit should wait as late as spring or summer. Don't pick grapefruit yet. Grapefruit are the best in late spring or early summer. 

November, December or January rambutans may be ripe.  Rambutans are ripe when the rounded part is a bright yellow, orange or red color (depending on variety)and the spikes are still green. When the spikes become black, they are overripe. The best time to prune rambutan is at the time of harvest. Prune rambutan to maintain a relatively short height and 3 or 4 main limbs well spaced.  Remove dried branches, water suckers and crossed branches.

November, December, January, February, March  and April kiwi vines may bear fruit.

In December, the coffee beans may be a bright red, indicating readiness for picking.

In the veggie area, we can pick jerusalem artichokes, arugula, beets, bok choy, broccoli (except for romanesco), brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, collards, dill, eggplant, endive, fennel, kale, leaf lettuce, mint, mustard greens, multiplier onions and scallions, oregano, parsley, peas, radish, spinach, sunflowers, swiss chard, thyme, tomatoes, and turnips. For flowers, we can harvest anise hyssop, dill, dandelion, nasturtiums, and pea blossoms. 


Mulching:


Investigate mulching options, such as planting compatible companion ground covers around the bottom of the big potted plants for a live mulch that can droop over the edges of the planter to keep the roots cooler and prevent evaporation. 


Planting:


Frost-tolerant trees and shrubs (bare root, deciduous) may planted this month as well as flowers and bulbs. Plant bulbs in well-drained soil that is also high in compost or organic matter. Your bulbs should be planted with about two inches of sand beneath them. Cover with a coarse material such as coconut coir or crushed wood products, such as bark. We can plant globe artichokes, broccoli, standard cabbage, carrots, mint, multiplier onions, oregano, and thyme. 


Pruning:


In December, top trim cacao tree to limit height growth.  Minimum height assumed to produce pods is 5 - 6' with a 1.5 inch trunk diameter.  Only prune to a shorter stature if cacao pods are not desired.

In December, January and February prune allspice, avocado, when they are not actively growing.

November, December, January, February, March prune apple and pear trees during dormancy.  The ideal shape is open goblet with four or five main branches. Cut the main branches back 1/3 to just beyond the last properly facing bud.  

December, January, February prune kiwi vines during dormancy.  Remove dead, diseased and tangled wood, and shape to desired form.

The general rule of pruning is to never remove more than 1/4 of the total plant. Always use sharp, sterile, quality pruning tools and disinfect them between cuts to prevent the spread of disease. Rodale has an excellent article on garden tool maintenance. Remove dead branches and water sprouts, but don't do any major tree pruning. 


Sowing:


We can sow arugula, basil, bok choy, raab broccoli, carrots, cilantro, collards, dill, eggplant, fennel, mint, bulb and multiplier onions, parsley, peas, radishes, spinach, swiss chard, tomatoes and turnips. For flowers, we can sow calendula, carnation, dianthus, pinks, hollyhocks, pansy, carnation, dianthus, pinks, snapdragon, sweet william, lemon verbena, and violas. 

Transplant potted Baobab trees during the dormant period when leaves are dropped.



Sunning:


We probably don't need a cold frame at this time, but it is good to be prepared! If you have one prepare it for the new year. If not, Mother Earth News has an article about growing veggies all year round with a couple of raised beds


Shading:


We don't really need any shade to protect plants from sunburn, and we aren't yet expecting any frost. So, during this time we really don't have anything to put over the plants. 


Water:


Cut back watering of all trees and shrubs, but continue to water deep. Don't over water or fungus will grow. That's all, stop reading! Happy gardening!