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Garden Tips for December


  • Plant onions, chives, spinach, mustard, peas, beets, and radishes.
  • Start to prepare planting beds for spring by adding lots of compost.
  • For amaryllis to bloom by Valentine’s Day, start bulbs in early December—in a sunny south window.
  • Start brassica and lettuce seeds in a greenhouse in order to transplant in late January.


  • Water plants as needed.
  • Reapply fresh mulch in planting beds to keep weed seeds from germinating in winter rains.
  • Cut chrysanthemums 6 to 8 inches above the ground after bloom.
  • Divide actively-growing native perennials.
  • Now is the time to cut many perennials and native perennials to the ground if not using them for feeding the birds.
  • Choose a living Christmas tree; keep it outside until Christmas week.
  • Harvest winter vegetables.
  • Begin to prune dormant fruit trees and shrubs.
  • Prune large trees to prepare for winter storms.
  • Harvest winter vegetables, such as lettuce, beets, carrots, and brassicas.
  • Bare-root plants, such as fruit trees, asparagus, artichokes, rhubarb, berries, and grapes, will be arriving at nurseries soon. Be ready to plant bare roots immediately after purchasing, in order to keep them from drying out.
  • Spray peaches, nectarines, and apricots with a dormant fungicide (such as fixed copper) to avoid peach leaf curl and shot hole disease.
  • Grape vines should be pruned in the winter. The proper pruning technique (i.e. cane or spur) will depend on the variety of grape. Keep in mind that once a cane bears fruit, it will not fruit again, making pruning an essential task.

Have some winter fun with plants

  • Make wreaths with cuttings from native plants such as toyon, California bay, wax myrtle, and conifers.
  • Save seed from favorite plants and make up seed packets from fancy paper, ready to go into cards as gifts to friends and family throughout the year.
  • Make herb vinegar by soaking herb sprigs in vinegar for a variety of taste sensations. Let them soak for 2 to 3 months.
  • Bring crocus indoors to stimulate early bloom.