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December Organic Maintenance

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  • Cool season annuals and hardy perennials. Delphiniums, larkspur and pop- pies from seed. Many cool season transplant choices are available.
  • Trees, shrubs, vines, ground covers and other crops such as arugula, cabbage, kale, chard, greens, spinach and lettuce. Carrots and garlic can still be planted.
  • Herb transplants including lavender, oregano, rosemary, rue, sage, parsley, coriander, dill and fennel. Dill and fennel may need some freeze protection.
  • Living Christmas trees (after use) that are adapted to the area’s climate and soils.
  • Spring bulbs, including tulips and hyacinths.
  • Transplant shrubs and trees.

  • Avoid all synthetic fertilizers, of course.
  • Cool season annuals in beds and pots. Use Garrett Juice as a soil drench fertilizer.
  • Greenhouse plants if needed with organic fertilizers, earthworm castings and lava sand.
  • Houseplants, once during winter, with earthworm castings, lava sand and other odorless organic fertilizers. Coffee grounds are one good choice. Add apple cider vinegar at one tablespoon to one ounce per gallon at each watering.
  • Winter grasses with mild organic fertilizer at one-half the rate, usually ten pounds per thousand square feet.
  • See the Organic Fruit and Pecan Tree Program for details on these trees.

  • Do not prune the tops of crape myrtles. The seedpods are decorative and some small birds like the seed.
  • Evergreens, to adjust the appearance.
  • Do not make flush cuts and do not apply pruning paint to any plants.
  • Shade trees to remove dead, damaged, and out of place limbs. Do not prune just to “thin out” trees. Trimming can be done to avoid crowding and to allow more light to understory plants and to eliminate co-dominate vertical growth.
  • Cut off tops of spent perennials if not already done. Leave roots in the ground.
  • Wait till the end of the winter to prune fruit trees and grapes. Best timing for them is just before bud break to prevent premature flowering.
  • Use the dormant months to remove ground covers from the bases of plants and vines completely from all trees. If soil is on the root flares and trunks of trees, remove the soil very carefully with slow water, a stiff broom and a shop vac. It’s best to hire an arborist to do the work with the air spade.

  • Potted plants as needed.
  • Any dry areas to help protect against desiccation and winter cold injury.
  • Add apple cider vinegar at one tablespoon to one ounce per gallon, time permitting.

  • INSECTS: Spray houseplants with liquid seaweed, mild soap and bio- stimulants to control scale, mealy bugs, spider mites and other insects. Mild orange oil-based mound drench solutions can also be used.
  • Bark aphids on trees look scary but normally need no treatment.
  • Spray heavy infestations scale insects on shade and fruit trees with horticultural oil. Not recommended except in extreme cases. Sprays will kill beneficial insects and microbes.
  • Avoid all toxic chemical pesticides, as usual.
  • DISEASES: Spray garlic tea on plants with fungal diseases. Apply dry granulated garlic to the soil for addition control.  
  • WEEDS: Remember that henbit, clover, and other wildflowers are beautiful; so don’t worry about spraying them in most cases. If you must, spray vinegar, orange oil and fatty acid products between Christmas and New Years. See appendix for formula.
  • Cut mistletoe out of trees. Remove infested limbs if possible. Apply the Sick Tree Treatment. Also apply the Sick Tree Treatment to other stressed trees such as those with heavy infestations of galls.

Odd Jobs:
  • Continue to mulch leaves into the turf.
  • Cover tender plants before freezes with floating row cover. Potted plants can be covered with large plastic trashcans.
  • Pick tomatoes the night before first freeze, unless they are already gone.
  • Clean and oil tools before storing for winter.
  • Run mower, trimmer engines dry of gasoline. Drain and change oil. Take to repair shop now to avoid the spring rush.
  • Mulch all bare soil. Apply a thin layer of compost followed by shredded native tree trimmings.
  • Turn compost piles as time allows. Add molasses to speed up break down.
  • Apply lava sand or decomposed granite on icy paving. Do not use chemical deicers, salt or synthetic fertilizers.
  • Feed and water the birds!

*Planting recommendations based on North Texas climate, which is zone 8. Check with your local nurseries and extension service for specific varieties and timing.
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