Horticulture Tips for December

Home Grown  by Keith Reed
Even though landscape maintenance may not be a high priority on your “to do” list in December, there are a few things to consider this time of year that can pay big dividends when next spring rolls around.
  • Addressing fallen leaves is usually priority number one. There are several reasons for this.
    • Leaves are an excellent component of compost. When composting, be sure an incorporate a few “greens” into the pile to speed up the composting process. This could include kitchen waste, clippings from cool season lawns, animal manure, or even commercial fertilizer.
    • Leaves can damage a cool season lawn if left to pile up. This limits light and air to the turfgrass. While it is not important to remove every leaf that falls, do try to chop them up or at least stir them around on occasion to prevent them from forming an almost impenetrable barrier. Note that chopped leaves will compost much quicker than those simply raked up and added to the pile so this is a win-win if you are composting.
    • Lastly, piles of leaves can help insects survive the winter. While it would be a mistake to assume that diligent leave removal will eliminate your insect problems next year, it certainly can’t hurt.
  • Get those important plants mulched if you have not already done so. Strawberries, new perennial plantings, and immature trees are just a few examples.
  • If we fail to get measureable rains soon, water plants susceptible to winter damage, especially new plantings and evergreen species. People often how much water this time of year? It’s difficult to say because of so many variables.
  • Protect the trunks of young thin-barked trees from sun scald and winter injury (maple trees are the most commonly damaged in our area). There are several different types of wraps on the market and all are effective. The idea is to reduce extreme temperature changes in the cambium (growth) layer of the trunk on cold winter days by providing a bit of shade. Just remember to remove the wrap in the spring as the leaves begin to unfurl.
  • When (perhaps if might be more appropriate this year!) we get some freezing precipitation, be judicious in your use of salt when de-icing sidewalks and driveways. Think about what happens to the runoff as the snow and ice melts away. If it will end up in your landscape, consider using an alternative such as sand or a clay-based kitty litter.

For more information on this or any other horticultural topic, you can contact Keith Reed, the Horticulturist in the Payne County Extension office. Keith can be reached via email at
keith.reed@okstate.edu, phone at 405-747-8320, or in person at the Payne County Extension office, located at 315 W. 6th in Stillwater.

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