Holiday Home Decorating and Care
With the onset of December and the pending holidays later this month, giving some care and attention to the outside as well as the inside of your castle can add that extra holiday pizzazz. At this special time of year: clutter should get cleaned up, holiday decorations will get unboxed and set out, while others get put away to make room, centerpieces and tablecloths are changed, garland swags and wreaths will be hung.
There’s a lot that can be done in your garden and landscape too to give it that extra flare: flowerbeds can be dead headed and mulched, weeds can be pulled or sprayed, entry foyers can be cleaned and decorated and lights are put up.
Flowers—the Impact of Color
Use the impact that flowers make at your entryway or on your patio or outdoor tables. Flowers in pots and hanging containers on your patio and front sidewalk will cheer up the area. Feed your flower gardens and containers with a balanced fertilizer like Flower Power 14-14-14 to keep them looming heavily. A number of winter annuals, particularly petunias, are “heavy feeders” meaning they need to be fertilized regularly–about once every two months. With weather like ours, we can plant all winter long and have beautiful flowers, including poinsettias, throughout the holidays.
If you have already planted winter flowers, pinch off spent flowers. This cleans out any dead looking flower heads (a.k.a. dead heading) and gives the flowers a push to bloom more. Also, a layer of new mulch on top of the soil will give your flowerbeds that extra finishing touch of class, and give an added layer of winter frost protection to the root zone.
Decorate with Poinsettias
Consider adding poinsettias to planters when you pot them up for the holiday season. Poinsettias make a striking centerpiece and colorful addition around the entryway and patio. Simply plant a poinsettia in the middle of the pot with Swedish Ivy or annual flowers around the edge for a stunning display. This can be done in existing planters, hanging baskets, flowerbeds, etc. The same is true of holiday topiary and living Christmas trees. Added to a planter, any of these add holiday color and cheer. There are literally dozens of poinsettia colors, sizes, and varieties to choose from. The colors range from red, white, pink, ‘Jingle Bells’ (red with flecks),’Marble Star’ (salmon with white edges) ‘Winter Rose’ (Curly Red), ‘DaVinci’ (soft peppermint color) ‘Cortez Burgundy’ (dark burgundy) Shimmer Surprize (red with curly bracts and variegated) as well as other combinations.
Choosing a fresh poinsettia is as simple as looking at the flower in the center of the colored “bracts,” the technical name for the brightly colored leaves of the poinsettia. The flower is actually the tiny yellow cluster at the top of the plant. If the flowers are still closed, the poinsettia is extremely fresh and will look great well past the holiday season
When you get your poinsettias home, be aware of where you place them and how often you water. Put poinsettias in a brightly lit room (or patio). There should be enough natural light so you can see to read. Also place them away from drafty areas and areas that get a lot of traffic. If you are putting them outside, bring them in at night and during windy days. They are a tropical plant that will freeze if left out in cold weather. Poinsettias hate to sit in water as their roots rot. They like to dry out between waterings – once per week is a good average. Just feel the soil beforehand and make sure the soil is dry before you douse them again.
Fresh, Fragrant Wreaths and Trees
Shop early for fresh trees and wreaths from Oregon, the perfect choice to fill your home with fragrance and tradition. The Douglas and Noble Fir trees are cut fresh and delivered promptly to Arizona. Check that your tree lot keeps them watered and tenderly cared for until you choose your favorite.
The Douglas fir has wonderful aroma (try bursting the scent pockets on the trunk for extra aroma). The Noble Fir has less aroma, but tends to last longer and has such elegant layering. Our customers come back year after year for the freshness and value.
When selecting a tree, test freshness by grasping a branch firmly but gently and pulling it through your hand. Only a few needles should pull free–the branch should be flexible and the tree should be dense and fairly even from top to bottom. Always use a tree stand with a water bowl that is the correct size for the tree.
Your yard may need some pre-holiday attention. Your winter lawn may need fertilization with a slow release lawn food blend. If you dread the backbreaking labor of removing weeds by hand or hoe, and are amenable to use of chemical products, there are a number of products that will prevent weeds (pre-emergent herbicides) or get rid of them if you already have a problem (post-emergent herbicides). I like a product called Amaze for weed prevention. Simply sprinkle it on the area you want protected and water it in. The product creates a one- to two-inch deep barrier in the soil that prevents seeds from sprouting. As long as the soil isn’t disturbed, the area should remain weed free for six to eight months. Just re-apply to keep the protection in place. The product is ideal for graveled areas in front yard desertscapes and perennial beds that you don’t want to re-seed, etc. Post-emergent herbicides like Round Up and Reward are great for quick control of areas that have been overrun and brands are available for control of a specific weed.
‘Tis the Season for Frost Protection
Even though we have such mild winters, you still need to be ready to provide frost protection when temperatures dip below 35 degrees. From early November to late February, and even into March, frost protection for your tender plants may be necessary. Plants such as bougainvillea, hibiscus, natal plum, lantana, yellow bells and honeysuckle, to name a few, are fairly frost tender. Young ficus trees and citrus trees need protection also.
There are several ways to provide protection from frost. Container plants can be moved to a sheltered location. Plants located near a building or under a tree are more protected. Watering can also help, moisture gives off heat, and the heat rises and warms the plant.
For more serious protection, frost blankets are a good choice. It’s a lightweight synthetic fabric that breathes and allows air and light to circulate. A frost blanket provides approximately seven degrees of protection, which in many cases is more than ample. It comes in several pre-cut sizes and with the proper care it lasts year after year. Another choice is Frost Protec, a spray-on solution that forms a frost-protective coat on plants. This inhibits moisture loss from leaf and stem surfaces. Frost Protec will typically provide five to 12 degrees of protection. It’s completely safe, non-toxic, and biodegradable and should be used in combination with a frost blanket in case of a hard frost. Keep in mind that tender new growth is very frost sensitive; so don’t encourage new growth. Avoid high nitrogen fertilizers during.
Most important – do not use plastic. If the plastic touches the plant leaf surface, it will burn. It also traps the cold air and doesn’t breath. Also, the cold air becomes hot air as the sun warms it, potentially threatening the life of your plant.
With a little prevention, maintenance and creative decorating with poinsettias and flowers your yard and patio will be in high style and perfect condition to receive family and friends. Most important is to take time to experience the peace of the holidays.
December Gardener’s Calendar
Lawns & Grasses:
- Cut back ornamental grasses and do not fertilize.
- Water dormant Bermuda lawns every 2 weeks to a depth of six to eight inches
- Fertilize overseeded lawns only monthly.
- Water overseeded lawns every week.
- Plant grape varieties that need less than 400 hours of chill time.
- Continue to harvest citrus this month.
- Water citrus once a month.
- Water deciduous fruit trees every two to three weeks.
- Do not fertilize this month.
- Prune deciduous fruit trees.
Vegetables & Herbs:
- Transplant asparagus, cabbage, Brussel’s sprouts, kohlrabi, lettuce and cauliflower.
- Plant beets, carrots, peas, turnips, green onions, radishes, spinach and mustard greens.
- Mulch vegetable beds.
- Water every three days.
- Do not fertilize this month.
- Water once a week to a depth of 10 to12 inches.
- Plant poppies, larkspur, pansy, lobelia, snapdragon, petunia, calendula, sweet alyssum, asters, sweet peas and dianthus.
- Water to a depth of six to eight inches.
- Plant geranium, butterfly weed, dusty miller, evening primrose, gloriosa daisy and penstemon.
- Water established perennial beds every eight to 10 days, dormant perennials every three to four weeks.
- Remove debris before mulching.
- Protect perennials from freezing temperatures.
- Do not fertilize this month.
- Mulch roses to protect from freezing.
- Do not fertilize this month.
- Water weekly.
Shrubs & Trees:
- Continue to plant shrubs.
- Protect sensitive species from freezing temperatures.
- Water established trees and shrubs monthly.
- Do not fertilize or prune established shrubs or trees this month.
- Clean and repair all garden tools.
- Check all watering systems to be sure they are in good order.
- Finish yard and garden cleanup.