Southeast Gardening Tasks – What To Do In December Gardens

Birds And Birdfeeders In Trees
(Image credit: Nathaniel Taylor)

As winter begins in the Southeast, we all experience colder temperatures, but these vary according to our southern location. Here’s a rundown of what to expect in December gardens in this region.

Regional To-Do List for December 

Some states give up gardening for a month, others for two or three. Those in other areas, such as Florida, continue to plant and harvest, just switching to cool season crops. North Carolina, where I reside, has approximately 175 days between first and last frost dates. These may be shortened during this mild winter. 

Keep an eye on your local forecast and check the Almanac specifically for your area to learn of your planting window this month. Planting can include cool-season herbs and vegetables, like the following: 

Check your USDA hardiness zone to make sure your plantings are compatible with your conditions from planting until harvest time. Plant cool season annual flowers for color in areas not likely to freeze. You may also plant deciduous fruit and nut trees is some areas this month. Prune already planted fruit trees and apply dormant oil if needed for pests. 

If you’re using wood heat in the fireplace or cooking on a wood stove, use some of those ashes to improve your garden and lawn soil pH. If it is below 6.0, the ashes may help raise it. The ideal pH for your soil is 6.0 to 6.9 pH. If you are unsure of the reading on your soil, take a soil test through the local extension service or purchase a testing kit at the garden center. 

Other Chores for December in the Southeast 

  • Fertilize houseplants that you’ve not recently fertilized, water first if using a liquid fertilizer.
  • Continue raking yard leaves, shred to apply to garden beds or use them whole. Leaves may sometimes be used as mulch
  • Take cuttings of berried bushes for indoor holiday décor. Use hollies, nandina, pyracantha, and Washington hawthorn if they are growing in your landscape and have red berries. 
  • Force amaryllis and other bulbs for winter flowers. 
  • December lawn care in the Southeast varies due to the kind of grass you’re growing. Your lawn may be brown and waiting for spring to reemerge. If you’re growing winter grass, continue to mow, fertilize, and remove weeds. Water winter grass as needed. Dig out winter weeds. Take a soil test to find if you need a lime application on the lawn. 
  • Cut a Christmas tree or get one you can later plant in your landscape.
Becca Badgett

Becca Badgett was a regular contributor to Gardening Know How for ten years. Co-author of the book How to Grow an EMERGENCY Garden, Becca specializes in succulent and cactus gardening.