Not sure what to do for your lawn or garden during this cooler month? Here's a few tips and ideas to help you out!
Well, here in the Athens area, we've already experienced a few frosty mornings come the begining of December. Although the days are shorter, you might not think there is much you can do in your garden now. But the cooler ( and sometimes even warmer) days make a perfect setting to get ready for the spring planting season without the fear of combating the super hot days!
Did you say winter projects?
Here are some great ideas to help get you prepared for the spring. 1) Now is a great time to plan out your flower beds or new garden plots and get your soil ready. Even if you don't plan on planting anything until the weather warms in the spring, you will already have this tedious, time consuming chore out of the way.
2) Make sure to cover your strawberries with a row cover and they'll do much better through the winter and they will bear fruit earlier next year. Row covers (also known as 'season extenders') are made from lightweight fabric and allow sunlight, air and water to pass through to your plants. They provide frost protection down to about 28 degrees!
There's still time to sow annual ryegrass to hold the soil in that new yard!
Winterizing your Home
Make sure to wrap any outside faucets. Disconnect your hose and roll it up, starting at one end and raise it into the air as your go. This will move any excess water to the opposite end so it doesn't freeze inside your hose. Take newspapers or rags and wrap around each faucet until it is completely covered and you have about 1 inch of padding around it. Next take a roll of plastic and wrap over the material surrounding the faucet. Seal the plastic with duct tape so it won't come unwrapped during the winter months. You can also use the insulated foam covers that are available.
If you have an A/C window unit, remove it from the window and seal the window. It it can't be removed , simply place a large black garbage bag or a purchased window unit cover, over the exterior unit and seal it with duck tape. Make sure there is no extra water inside so make sure to drain it and the hoses.This will keep the chilly wind from blowing right through it.
Cold Weather & Pets
Remember to provide both food and fresh water for your visiting birds. This month we will start seeing goldfinches, chickadees and tufted titmouse as well as others. If you put out a variety of seeds, like millet, thistle, safflower, and even the handy stand-by sunflower seeds, you will attract many species of birds. Rememeber that once you start putting out seeds, continue through to the spring.
Some people think that just because our pets grow thick winter coats during the winter monthst that they will be fine if the temps drop down. This is not the case, and very young or older pets won't be able to tolerate the weather as much as middle aged pets.Try and keep your pets indoors as much as possible during very cold nights. There are many great kennels on the market that you can fold away when not in use. Always remember to provide fresh, non-frozen water for your pets, big and small.
If you haven't already, December is the perfect time to put your winter bird feeders out. Make sure they stay filled with seed as your birds will really appreciate it this time of year when their other food sources are scarce. Also make sure bird baths and other sources of water stay liquid. Birds still need water during these colder months. Birds can become dehydrated in winter even if surrounded by ice and snow. Putting out a pan of water near the feeder on warmer days is a terrific idea. Birds need to burn more calories in the winter just to stay warm. Suet is considered a high energy food because it consists of fat that has 9 calories per gram compared to 4 calories per gram for carbohydrates or protein. Peanut Butter is also popular with our flying friends but is more expensive than suet. Suet feeders are a favorite of woodpeckers and other insect-eating birds.
~ If you haven't planted your bulbs yet, you can still get them going during December. Remember, Tulips may be planted as late as early January and still do well if properly refrigerated and chilled 45 to 60 days prior to planting.
~ On super chilly nights that the temps might dip into the teens, make sure to leave a slow drip on your faucets.
~ Reverse the direction of your ceiling fans. This simple trick takes the warmer air that has risen to the ceiling area and pushes it back down towards the floor, keeping you warmer!
~ Winter is a great time to browse through plant catalogs, visit nurseries and make spring plans for your landscape. Also its a great time to plan your spring garden vegetables!
3) Pruning can be done on most woody trees and shrubs safely from December until early March. Its a great rule of thumb to only prune your plants when you are going to be removing dead or winter killed, or diseased or insect-injured wood. As well as any branches broken by the wind. Try not to leave stubs, which do not heal properly as these will invite insects & diseases. Your roses bushes should be pruned in mid-February. And I know many of us have azaleas and these should be pruned after they flower.
Don't put your mower away just yet. There are many more leaves to fall from the tress and they will need to be mowed and re-distributed back onto the lawn as mulch. Remember from our November article, don't let fallen leaves just lay on your lawn as it will encourage the growth of unwanted fungus. Compost fallen leaves make an excellent organic soil for spring and summer gardening. Don't allow fallen leaves to collect on lawns to block off light and air.
Check your windows and doors for any cracking or uneven seals. Replace old weather stripping that might be worn out and is allowing cold drafts to enter. Use caulk around windows to seal cracks.
Its a great idea to provide a warm bed for your dog or cat and some pet lovers even go the extra mile and purchase heated beds, just be very careful of electrical cords.
If left outside dogs and cats can become very resourceful when trying to find a warm spot to sleep. Cats especially, can tuck away inside small compartments, so be extra careful when starting your vehicles in the morning if you have seen stray cats around your area as cats will curl up inside.