Jessica Damiano Jessica Damiano, Newsday columnist

Jessica Damiano is a master gardener and journalist with more than 25 years experience in radio, television, print and online media. She has worked on Newsday's interactive endeavors since 1994, and currently is Deputy Editor overseeing's Lifestyle and Entertainment coverage. Jessica enjoys toiling in her garden -- a never-finished work in progress -- and helping local gardeners solve their horticultural problems in her Garden Detective column, which appears every Sunday in Newsday. Her Garden Detective column and blog have been awarded Press Club of Long Island Society of Professional Journalists Awards. Jessica lives in Glen Head, NY, with her husband John, daughters Justine and Julia, dogs Maddie and Miguel, and a whole bunch of perennials, vegetable plants and weeds. Ask a question Show More





There’s always something to do in the garden, even if it’s just cleaning up and, yes, even if it’s December. During this month of celebrations, take some time to enjoy the changing view — exfoliating bark, bright berries, colored twigs and skeletal branches. And take some time to enjoy the end of another year — and look forward to new beginnings. Wishing you all the best this holiday season — in the garden and out.

1 Brush off, rinse, dry and then spray garden tools with a disinfectant before storing for the season.

2 Spray broadleaf evergreens (rhododendron, laurel, etc.) with anti-desiccant to help prevent dehydration over the winter.

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3 Check trees and prune away dead, broken or weak branches so they don’t snap off and cause damage to property — or people — during winter storms.

4 Watch my video for tips for selecting a healthy Christmas tree at

5 Turn or till soil in vegetable beds to disrupt hibernating insects.

6 Happy Hanukkah!

7. Inspect poinsettias for white flies or their eggs before buying, or you might find your house infested for the holidays.

8 Put your agrarian skills to use: Make cheese, brew beer, pickle vegetables — they’re fun to make and fun to give.

9 Need gift ideas for your gardening friends? See my suggestions at

10 Mulch parsley now, and you should be able to harvest through most of winter.

11 Inventory leftover seeds and make a list of those you’ll need next year. Catalogs will be coming soon.

12 Store dry seeds in a tightly sealed glass jar or a paper envelope in a cool, dark place. You can refrigerate, but separate from fruit.

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13 Provide a western or southern exposure for houseplants, and rotate pots with every watering.

14 Discourage rodent activity and damage by clearing weeds, fallen fruit and debris from around tree trunks. And avoid stacking firewood near the house.

15 Check arborvitaes and junipers for bagworms. Handpick and destroy.

16 If deer are a concern, surround rhododendrons, yews, azaleas and other at-risk plants with chicken-wire cages.

17 Rinse dust from the leaves of houseplants to help them “breathe” and make the most of reduced winter sunlight.

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18 Make your own trees and shrubs: Take hardwood cuttings and completely bury upside-down in sand outdoors. Transplant in spring.

19 If you’re hanging real mistletoe, be sure pets and children can’t reach it or come into contact with fallen leaves or berries; they’re poisonous.

20 Avoid walking on the lawn when it has frost or snow cover, or you’ll risk damage.

21 Keep a hose handy so you can water evergreens during winter dry spells, but be sure to drain it so it doesn’t burst.

22 Today is the first day of winter. As long as the ground is frozen, you can apply winter mulch.

23 Check the Christmas tree and water daily, if necessary. Be sure to keep it away from radiators, and turn off lights before going to bed.

24 Tie twine or ribbon around perennials you plan to move next spring. You might not recognize them when they’re dormant.

25 Merry Christmas!

26 Happy Kwanzaa!

27 Give the compost pile a turn and, yes, keep adding to it all winter long.

28 Take advantage of offseason sales to buy discounted garden tools and supplies.

29 Most houseplants slow down over winter, so cut back on water and don’t fertilize until spring.

30 Check the undersides of indoor hibiscus leaves for whiteflies, and treat with insecticidal soap if necessary.

31 Think ahead to next year: Take note of plants to move in spring and map out a plan.