As I look outside my window, red twig dogwoods are beginning their striking display, evergreens have taken center stage and the twists and turns of bare tree branches beckon. Exfoliating bark forces me to notice my neighbors’ river birch, while the dried seed heads of not-quite-forgotten perennials sway in the wind. Soon, we’ll be lighting the fireplace and ushering out the year, but until then, alas, the daydreaming must stop — there’s still plenty of work to be done. Here’s a chore for every day of the month.
1. Did you know parsley is biennial? Mulch it now, harvest for most of winter and expect a resurrection in spring.
2. Add compost and lime to the vegetable bed now. They’ll work their magic over winter and soil will be rich by planting time.
3. Store seeds in glass jars or paper envelopes in a cool, dark spot. The refrigerator is fine, but keep away from stored fruit.
4. Clean, disinfect, dry and store garden tools.
5. Snap photos of plants you’d like to move so you’ll remember where they are come spring.
6. Prune dead, broken or weak branches from trees to prevent damage during winter storms.
7. Rinse dust from houseplant foliage to help them “breathe” and absorb maximum sunlight.
8. Terracotta and clay pots may crack if left out in the cold. Empty, clean and store indoors.
9. If deer tend to visit, protect rhododendrons, yews, azaleas and other targeted shrubs with chicken wire.
10. Watch my video for tips for selecting a healthy Christmas tree at newsday.com/gardening101.
11. Check arborvitaes and junipers for bagworms, then remove and destroy.
12. Happy Hanukkah! Light the menorah and grate your stored homegrown potatoes for latkes worthy of the holiday.
13. If you’re hanging real mistletoe, keep it out of the reach of pets and children, and ensure leaves and berries won’t fall in their path; it’s poisonous.
14. Make trees and shrubs for free: Bury hardwood cuttings upside down in sand outdoors. Transplant in spring.
15. Keep plants off radiators and away from heating vents. If possible, group them together and run a humidifier nearby.
16. Disrupt the life cycles of hibernating insects by turning the soil in vegetable beds now.
17. Before bringing poinsettias home, inspect carefully for white flies and their eggs.
18. As long as the ground is frozen, you can apply winter mulch. If the ground isn’t frozen, you can plant more bulbs.
19. Refill birdfeeders, and don’t forget fresh water.
20. A healthy Christmas tree drinks a lot: Check the reservoir in its stand daily, and add water as necessary. Keep away from heat and turn off lights before turning in.
21. Drain and store all hoses if you haven’t already, but keep one handy to water newly planted trees during winter dry spells.
22. Make a list of seeds you’ll want next year, and check it twice. Those catalogs will be arriving soon.
23. Turn the compost pile.
24. Check stored cannas, caladiums, colocasias, dahlias and gladiolas, and mist if they’re drying out. Discard any that have shriveled or rotted.
25. Merry Christmas!
26. Honor the colors of Kwanzaa with eggplant, and red and green peppers on an mkeka.
27. Start lilies indoors now for blooms in time for Easter.
28. Gently knock snow from evergreens with a broom to prevent buckled branches after each snowfall. Arborvitaes and Leyland cypresses are especially vulnerable.
29. Look under leaves of indoor hibiscus. If you find white flies, treat with insecticidal soap.
30. Most houseplants slow down over winter. Decrease water and don’t fertilize again until spring.
31. Ring out the old and have a wonderful new year!