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December in the North Florida garden

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With Thanksgiving over and Christmas on its way, you may not be putting much thought into your landscape. But there are jobs that still can be performed during the month of December. Hardy shrubs and trees can be planted this month. Water them carefully. Don’t let them dry out but don’t keep the soil really wet.

NICEVILLE, Fla — With Thanksgiving over and Christmas on its way, you may not be putting much thought into your landscape. But there are jobs that still can be performed during the month of December.

Hardy shrubs and trees can be planted this month. Water them carefully. Don’t let them dry out but don’t keep the soil really wet. Vines that are strangling trees, such as wisteria, grapevine, kudzu, and honeysuckle, can be easily seen and removed once frost has killed their leaves.

Allow woody shrubs to slow down and enter dormancy by withholding fertilizers.

Tender shrubs and trees damaged by a freeze should not be cut back yet. Wait until the last frost of the season is over to see how far down the damage goes, then prune.

Prune broadleaf and narrow-leaf evergreen plants any time this month for shaping the plant. But avoid severe pruning. Prune so the top is slightly narrower than the bottom. Remove spent camellia blooms as they fall to help prevent petal blight, an unsightly disease that causes brown spots on camellia petals and causes the blooms to fall prematurely. Remove and replace mulch after camellias finish flowering.

Establish bedding plants of snapdragons, dianthus, pansies, and petunias. Fertilize winter-blooming annuals every four to six weeks with a slow-release fertilizer. Plant hardy perennials like delphinium, rudbeckia and Shasta daisy. There is no need to fertilize hardy perennials and other trees and shrubs in December.

Finish dividing and transplanting clumping perennials such as daylilies, mondo grass, ajuga and liriope. Clean up the garden, pull up spent annuals and renew the mulch.

Plant bare-root roses now. Select those that have been grafted on Fortuniana rootstock for the best results. When cold weather is forecast, protect the graft from frost or freeze with mulch. Refer to this UF/IFAS Extension publication on roses. https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ep339

Finish planting spring-blooming bulbs such as narcissus as soon as possible. Plant pre-cooled tulips and hyacinths before December 15. Finish planting wildflower seeds this month.

  • Eye M.D. of Niceville

Plant herbs that do well in winter including parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, and lavender. Clean up the garden. Remove dead vegetation and weeds to prevent a buildup of diseases, weeds, and insects.

Continue planting cool-season vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, radish, carrots, cauliflower, kohlrabi, mustard, onions and turnips.

Keep cool-season weeds in check before they get too established. Henbit, chickweed and dandelion will grow all winter.

Plant bare-root and container-grown fruit trees or blueberries all month.

  • Eye M.D. of Niceville

You can request a copy of this list by contacting the Okaloosa County Extension Office. The phone number is (850) 689-5850.

Larry Williams is the Extension horticulture agent with the Okaloosa County Cooperative Extension Service, University of Florida. Contact Larry at 689-5850 or email lwilliams@myokaloosa.com.

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