Horticulture Tips for December

Home Grown  by Keith Reed
Even though landscape maintenance is not a high priority on your “to do” list in December, there are a few items to consider this time of year that can pay big dividends when springtime 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.
  • Also, leaves can damage a cool season lawn if left to pile up. 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. This limits light and air critical to keeping turfgrass alive. 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.
  • 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 in helping keep insect populations in balance.
  • Get those important plants mulched if you have not already done so.
  • If we fail to get measureable rains soon, water plants susceptible to winter damage, especially new plantings and evergreen species. People often ask how much to water this time of year? It’s difficult to say because of so many variables. See last week’s column for more information on this.
  • 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 we get frozen precipitation, be judicious in your use of salt when de-icing sidewalks and driveways. If the runoff will end up in your landscape, consider using an alternative such as sand or a clay-based kitty litter. If you consistently have dead spots of turfgrass along a sidewalk or driveway in the spring, this could be the reason.

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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