December is a good month to replace overgrown shrubs — don’t fertilize until early spring. Below are some other December tips:
* Fertilize pansies and other winter annuals with a fertilizer containing nitrate nitrogen. The higher the ratio of nitrate nitrogen the better the fertilizer.
* Finish winter cleanup by pruning deciduous perennials 3 to 4 inches from the ground. Leaving part of the stem helps mark the location and size of the plant.
* When it is too cold to work in the yard, work on putting your landscape on paper; mark existing plants, site conditions (wet, dry, sunny, shade) then make a list of what you want to add.
Fruits and vegetables
* Pick mummied fruit off trees and rake up leaves under fruit trees to remove insects and diseases.
* December is a good month to construct raised vegetable beds. Any length is fine, but it’s good to build them no wider than 30 to 40 inches for easy access and to minimize compacting soil.
* Apply a thin layer of pine straw or mulch to protect winter veggies from extreme cold.
* Top dress unused areas of veggie beds with 2 to 4 inches of composted manure.
* Fruit trees can be pruned at any time during the winter provided the temperature is above 45 degrees.
* Get asparagus beds ready to plant when weather and soil conditions permit. The planting site should be in areas that will not interfere with cultivation of other crops. Till deeply and smooth soil surface. Set asparagus crowns any time in late December or early January when soil is not frozen.
* To keep your shears and loppers in good shape for next year, clean them with mineral spirits or Lysol bathroom tile cleaner. Adjust the tension screw and give them a good sharpening. Be sure to use a broad file while sharpening. Tools sharpened by a power grinder will over heat and lose their tempering, making the metal likely to chip or break.
* Clean garden hand tools with liquid detergent and dry thoroughly. Blades of shovels and hoes can be sharpened with a file. Apply a light coat of household oil. Treat all wood handles with a coat of linseed oil.
* After Christmas, your tree can be moved outside and redecorated for the birds. Anchor the tree in a bucket full of damp sand. Hang strings of popcorn and cranberries and add strings of peanuts (in the shell). Apples, oranges, leftover breads and cakes, even peanut butter cookies, can be hung on the boughs, but don’t use food containing chocolate, as it is poisonous to some animals. For best results, push the edible ornaments well into the tree; things that swing may scare birds.
Information about Extension Solutions for Homes and Gardens can be found on the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension website at www.caes.uga.edu/extension/cherokee or by contacting the Cherokee County Extension Office at 100 North St., Suite G21 in Canton at (770) 479-0418. The Georgia Extension Master Gardener Program is a volunteer training program offered through county offices of the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension.