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Gardening tips: no break from garden chores in December

Are there any garden tools or books on your Christmas wish list, asks master gardener John Hethrington
John Hethrington with some of his 'daffs'

Master gardener John Hethrington doesn't let any work pile up for his 20 different gardens in Meaford. His advice for all gardeners is this: there's always work to be done. 

Here are his tips for December gardening tasks:

Cut down tall perennials and ornamental grasses bent over by high winds and snow.

Loosely wrap evergreens and especially rhododendrons with Burlap. It is better to use three tomato stakes and make a triangle of burlap, as high as the plant and six-to-eight inches away from it. This will break the drying wind and shield it from the winter sun.

Protect young trees and shrubs from rodents with spiral plastic wraps or chicken wire. I know wraps look ugly, but the white reflects the sun to minimize sun scalding.

If not done already, hill up the soil and/or place compost around your hybrid tea roses and other tender plants and shrubs. 

I place loose straw over my potentially tender Phenomenal and Czech lavender to create an igloo of protection.

Bring in, drain and store all hoses and water-related equipment. Blow out in-ground garden water lines before they freeze.

Wash all your garden tools. Wipe the metal parts with a cloth soaked in 3-in-1 oil. If you really want to be fancy, wipe wooden handles with boiled linseed oil.

Make sure you have stocked up on firewood for your fireplace this winter. 

With all the mild weather, the ground should not yet be frozen, so you can still plant those spring bulbs that you forgot in your garage.

I once planted tulips on Christmas Day in my garden by the sidewalk in downtown Toronto.

An elderly gentleman passed by and asked, “Whatever are you doing?” I told him “It’s an old Hethrington tradition, I always plant tulips and daffs on Christmas Day”.

He shuffled off shaking his head, but there were blooms in April. So, stick any bulbs you can find in the ground before it freezes hard.

Inside, check to see that your house humidifier is maintaining the humidity at over 40 per cent to benefit both house plants and your family.

Put lots of garden tools and garden books on your Christmas list.

Start making to-do lists for your garden for next year.

Order seed catalogues and start dreaming about spring 2024!

Merry Christmas from your Beaver Valley Master Gardener