Garden chores for December have always been an interesting time for those of us who live on the Gulf Coast. We’ve felt temperatures in the 80s on Christmas Day. And we’ve faced blistering cold fronts as wsell. So calculating what needs to be done in the garden now is difficult.

Mulching along the garden path

I’ve said it before: mulch covers a multitude of garden sins. But during cold winter winds, and in the dog-day heat of late August, mulch provides great insulation material. If you haven’t already mulched your plants for the winter, do it now. Mulch will help keep the soil at a more constant relative temperature. In the event of a freeze, mulch will keep the plant roots above the freezing mark. In the summer, it will keep the soil at a low enough temperature so the roots won’t be damaged. Mulch also helps keep moisture in the soil and discourages weeds.

A 2- to 4-inch layer of native mulch, or pine straw on all your in-ground plants should keep icy winds from freezing the roots of your plants and help them survive. For your potted plants, you might want to bring them inside if possible. If not, move them next to a sheltered area of your home, away from wind, and cover them with a heavy garden cloth, old bed sheets, large beach towels, tarps, or more expensive plant covers.

Citrus jobs for December

For your citrus tree, which many of us are thinking of now, here is a December chore that I recommend. Drawstring bags are a good way to cover your citrus plants. They cost around $10 to $15, or you can just pin some sheets together and wrap them. If you’re really into self-sufficiency or don’t want to put out the money, you can take the old sheets, sew them together and do the drawstring thing yourself. For root systems, put a couple of bags of compost, partially decomposed compost, grass clippings, or even leaves around the base of the tree. Use big plastic trash bags, and don’t overfill them. Bags of compost or leaves can also be used to protect exposed pipes. Putting the material in bags ensures that it will stay put, conform to the ground, and continue to do their job as insulators.

Don’t forget to water all your plants well before a freeze. Water conducts ground heat better than air. Many citrus growers also spray down their trees before a freeze. As the water freezes, it releases heat, to its environment. Some of that heat goes out into the atmosphere. But much of it is directed into the leaves and the fruit, adding another protective layer.

Another December chore: Gifts

It’s not a December chore, so to speak, but the holidays but holidays are what they are. And it’s a good time to give friends a little something. Got some gardener friends or a relative? How about a drip irrigation system (They’re affordable on line, at the big box stores even some of the “little box” stores as well.) A nice rake or shovel, or perhaps a set of hand tools. They might really need a cobra head weeder or a pair of Felco pruners. Felco makes them for right- and left-handed gardeners. They’re a little pricy, but they’ll last a lifetime. Or you might want to get a little more creative. I found some great sights on the Internet that offer new and innovative gardening tools. And to my more cynical friends, no, I’m not getting paid for putting their sights here.)

Some interesting sites

Here are some of the more interesting sites: Personalization Mall/Outdoor & Garden Gifts (great for those who have ; True Leaf Market offers a plethora of types of organic seeds, seed propagation kits, some interesting garden-related decor, Blue Oyster Mushroom Block (I got one of these for my birthday last year); Sustainable gifts (climeworks); Gardener’s Supply Company, interesting and useful stuff, but a little pricey on some items. if you’re ready to pay out big bucks, try Garrett Wade. They have quality tools for a different hobbies or avocations, like woodworking, cooking, and camping.

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