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

’Twas the month before New Year, when all through the yard

Not a veggie was growing, not even a chard.

The pruners were placed in the shed by the gate

And soon family would arrive to fill up their plates.

But before you can rest and send out your snores

You really must tackle these key tasks and chores.

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1. Take photos of plants you’d like to move in spring so you’ll remember where they are; you might not recognize them when they’re dormant.

2. Add compost and lime to the vegetable patch now to prepare for spring planting.

3. Prune dead, broken or weak branches from trees to prevent damage to people and property during winter storms.

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

5. Bring terracotta and clay pots indoors; they may crack in the cold over winter.

6. Watch my video for tips for selecting a healthy Christmas tree at

7. Keep a hose handy to water newly planted trees during winter dry spells, but drain it so it doesn’t burst.

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

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

10. Protect yews, azaleas, rhododendron and arborvitaes from browsing deer with chicken wire.

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

12. As long as the ground is frozen, you can apply winter mulch.

13. Inspect poinsettias for white flies or eggs before buying to avoid bringing the pests home.

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

15. Make a list of seeds you’d like next year; catalogs will arrive shortly.

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16. Group houseplants together and run a humidifier nearby. Keep them off radiators and away from heating vents.

17. 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.

18. Rinse or wipe dust from houseplant foliage.

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. Snip evergreen branches and gather pine cones for indoor decorations.

21. Winter begins at exactly 5:44 a.m. Get up early to make the most of the shortest day of the year.

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

23. Check on stored tropical bulbs and mist if dry. Discard any that have shriveled or grown mold.

24. Happy Hanukkah! Light the menorah and grate stored homegrown potatoes for the freshest-tasting latkes.

25. Merry Christmas! Surround the crèche with fresh-cut holly branches.

26. Honor the colors of Kwanzaa with eggplant, and red and green peppers on the mkeka.

27. In the absence of snow cover, water shrubs that are growing under evergreen trees or roof eaves; rainwater might not reach them.

28. After snowfall, gently knock snow from evergreens with a broom to prevent bent, broken or buckled branches.

29. Check houseplants for scale, spider mites and mealybugs. Eliminate with a simple water rinse. If they persist, spray with insecticidal soap.

30. Restock bird feeders and be sure to provide clean water.

31. No chores today, it’s time to celebrate. See you next year!