December in the Garden

Many of us do more shopping and planning for our gardens during the winter months than actual gardening but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to do. In the warmer zones, December is the start of pleasant weather and a chance to enjoy planting cool season vegetables and flowers that don’t tolerate your summers. Northern gardeners should use this period without leaves to scout for egg masses and other signs of trouble on trees and shrubs. Here are some more regional gardening tips for the beginning of winter

In General

  • Keep watering your holiday plants and give them plenty of light
  • Check houseplants and any plants you brought indoors for the winter, for insects that may have hitched a ride. With the heat on, they can multiply quickly.
  • Also check any bulbs, corms, tubers and bare root plants for dessication or rot


  • Be prepared for sudden swings in temperature and protect tender plants
  • Prepare your planting beds now, with compost and manure, for planting in early spring
  • You should still be able to plant trees and shrubs
  • Start pruning your wisteria by removing the longer canes


  • Ease up on fertilizing plants, so new growth won’t get damaged by temperature drops
  • Take advantage of cooler temps by planting quick cool-weather crops like spinach, lettuce or peas
  • Be prepared for sudden cold snaps with row covers


  • Be prepared for sudden cold snaps and protect tender plants
  • Start seeds of cool season vegetables and flowers
  • Cut back asparagus, as soon as it dies back or the ground freezes

Southern California

  • Stop pruning and let your roses harden off for winter. It's also a good time to plant bare root roses.
  • Cut back ornamental grasses to get ready for new growth
  • You should be able to find seedlings of cool season annuals and vegetables
  • Plant pre-chilled bulbs right after Christmas

Northern California

  • Watch out for snails during wet season
  • Feed winter-flowering shrubs
  • Be prepared for sudden cold snaps with row covers
  • Protect young citrus trees and small fruits from frost damage by drapping row covers

Pacific NW

  • Wet soil makes weeds grow, but it also makes them easier to pull
  • Begin pruning dead branches from trees and shrubs, as they go dormant


  • Focus on your soil during the wet season. Add a layer of compost or mulch.
  • Plant cool season vegetables like: greens, peas, cole crops and root crops
  • Pot up some indoor blooms, like: amaryllis, gladioli and paper whites


By , Guide
Regional Gardening Guide for December