December in the northern Rockies is bound to be frigid and snowy. Frosty days are common and sub-freezing nights aren’t unusual. Gardeners in the higher elevations face a number of challenges, and December gardening tasks are limited. However, there are still several things you can do to pass the chilly winter days and prepare for spring.
Regional To-Do List: West North-Central Gardening
Here are a few December gardening tasks for the northern Rockies.
- Give your houseplants a little extra love during December in the northern Rockies. Water them with tepid to avoid shocking the roots but be careful not to overwater. Most indoor plants are dormant during winter and may rot in wet soil. Move plants away from drafty doors and windows.
- Tap branches gently with a long-handled tool to remove heavy snow from evergreen shrubs and trees. A heavy layer of snow can easily cause severe breakage.
- Remember the birds during December in the northern Rockies. Keep birdfeeders full of black oil sunflower seeds or other nutritious food and replace empty suet holders. Provide fresh water regularly when water ices over.
- Check shrubs and trees for bark damage caused by voles, rabbits, or other pests. To prevent further damage, wrap the base of the trunk with 24 inches (61 cm.) of hardware cloth or metal mesh. Repellents such as synthetic or real animal urine and hot peppers may help discourage pests.
- Your regional to-do list should include time perusing seed catalogs that typically arrive around the end of the year. Calculate the optimum time for planting seeds indoors and plan ahead for next year’s garden. Take stock. Consider what worked and didn’t work last year and consider possible improvements.
- Check onions, potatoes, winter squash, carrots, beets, and other vegetables you’ve stored for the winter. Discard any that are soft, dried out, or diseased. The same goes for cannas, dahlias, glads, and other tender corms or bulbs.
- Spray broadleaf shrubs with anti-desiccant to prevent loss of moisture during cold weather.
- Move your Christmas tree outdoors after the holidays. Add a few extra strings of popcorn and cranberries or surprise the birds with pinecones rolled in peanut butter and birdseed. You can also prop Christmas tree boughs over evergreen shrubs to protect them from winter sun and wind. Boughs will also hold snow, which offers extra protection from the cold.