Tradition holds that this month we honor the old and prepare to welcome the new. In between holiday shopping, party planning and soul searching, take some time to assess last year's garden. If you have any regrets, go easy on yourself: A garden is forever a work in progress, as are the gardeners who plant them. Wishing you all peace and joy this holiday season and many returning tulips around the corner.
Here's a chore to keep you busy every day of the month:
1. Before the season gets too hectic and while it's still fresh in your mind, jot down notes of this year's garden successes and failuresand reminders of plants you'd like to move in spring.
2. Store garden tools for the winter, but first brush off dirt, rinse, dry and spray with a disinfectant such as Lysol.
3. Mulch parsley now and you should be able to harvest it through most of the winter.
4. Check arborvitaes and junipers for bagworms. Hand pick and destroy.
5. 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.
6. Wash dust from the leaves of houseplants so they can "breathe" and absorb every last bit of sunlight, which is significantly reduced over the winter.
7. Take hardwood cuttings of deciduous trees and shrubs. Bury in sand outdoors until spring planting time.
8. When buying a Christmas tree, be sure needles are soft and don't fall excessively when tree is shaken. My favorite for longevity is the Fraser fir.
9. Add compost and lime to the vegetable patch; soil with be nutrient-rich in time for spring sowing.
10. Check poinsettias for white flies or eggs before buying, or you might find your house infested for the holidays.
11. Snip evergreen branches and gather pine cones for indoor decorations.
12. Happy Hanukkah! Want to impress a loved one? Consider giving coupons for 8 weeding sessions. Come June, you'll be reaping the miracle of gratitude.
13. Bury the bottom 10 inches of roses with soil to protect them from the cold.
14. Check the Christmas tree and water daily, if necessary. Be sure to keep it away from radiators, and turn off the lights before going to bed.
15. Now you can apply winter mulch - as long as the ground is frozen. (Thank you for your patience.)
16. Cut some branches from red twig dogwood and stick into soil-filled planters for a festive touch. Don't be surprised if they sprout leaves.
17. Ignore the lawn. You're welcome.
18. Group houseplants together and run a humidifier nearby.
19. Keep watering newly planted trees.
20. Store leftover seeds in a tightly sealed glass jar or paper envelope in a cool, dark place. If you put them in the refrigerator, separate from fruit.
21. It's the first day of winter. Order some seed catalogs.
22. De-icing salts can wreck your walkways, harm your pets and poison your plants and lawn. Most "safe" de-icers aren't as effective; stick to kitty litter.
23. Give the compost pile a turn and, yes, keep adding to it all winter long.
24. Take advantage of off-season and last-minute holiday pricing and buy any garden tools that need replacing.
25. Merry Christmas! Surround the crèche with fresh-cut holly branches and revel in the joy of the day's true meaning.
26. One of the seven symbols of Kwanzaa is Mazao,cq/pb the crop, which is intended to remind us of the rewards of hard work and cooperation. Hopefully, you're enjoying a freezer full of last summer's labor.
27. Think ahead to Easter and start some lilies.
28. Gently brush snow from evergreens all winter long to prevent buckled branches.
29. Winter isn't for the birds; they rely on you to feed them. Keep birdfeeders filled.
30. Check in with stored cannas, caladiums, colocasias,cq/pb dahlias and gladiolas, and mist if necessary.
31. "Youth is when you're allowed to stay up late on New Year's Eve. Middle age is when you're forced to." - Bill Vaughn, author and syndicated columnist