University of Vermont Extension
Department of Plant and Soil Science
STARTING HERBS AND OTHER DECEMBER
Charlie Nardozzi, Senior
Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension
University of Vermont
herbs indoors, feeding birds, and shopping for holiday garden gifts are
the gardening activities for this month.
Start seeds of basil, chives, sage,
or other herbs for a winter windowsill herb garden. If you don't have a
windowsill, consider setting up a light garden using fluorescent bulbs
suspended a few inches above the tops of plants.
As nights grow colder, move
houseplants away from window glass to prevent chill damage. Or close
shades and curtains at night to help insulate them
against the cold.
Hungry mice will chew the bark
off young fruit trees at the soil line, weakening and possibly killing
trees. Trees that have been mulched up to the trunk are especially
since the mice can hide under the mulch. To protect trees, pull mulch
several inches from the trunk. Consider doing what commercial
and place wire-screen mouse guards around the trunks of young trees.
To encourage birds to visit
your garden this winter, set out feeders near evergreen trees or shrubs
birds have cover while they feed. If you
have bird-chasing cats, or if raiding squirrels are a problem, hang the
higher off the ground and away from trees and structures.
Keep birdbaths ice-free and filled
with fresh water. Heated bird baths, and heating elements made to
bird baths to keep them from freezing, are available at
many garden supply
stores. Make sure if using such
electrical devices that they are plugged into properly grounded outlets
safe, outdoor extension cords.
If friends or others in your family
garden, think about shopping for holiday gifts at a garden supply
store. New hand tools, good pruners, gloves, weather
instruments, and books are some of the many items you might consider as
If not sure what to get or what they have, then gift certificates are
When shopping for poinsettias, look
for ones with leaves to the bottom of the plants that are a healthy
green. For longest life, choose a plant with the
flowers not yet open--these are the rather inconspicuous yellow lumps
center of the brightly colored bracts (actually these colored parts are
modified leaves). Visit a greenhouse to
be awed by masses in bloom, and to find some of the latest varieties
with marbled or spotted bracts. Make
sure to keep the plant covered and out of cold on the way home, and
drafts once home, as poinsettias are quite sensitive to cold.
Other holiday plants you might look
for are cyclamen, azaleas, and kalanchoe.
None of these plants, including poinsettias, like to be too wet.
Cyclamen and azaleas last better slightly cooler,
while kalanchoe and poinsettias prefer slightly warmer (65 to 70
F). Amaryllis is a bulb you can buy
potted, in bloom, or just as a bulb or bulb kit to give as a
gift. They are easy to grow, and should bloom
within a couple months from planting depending on variety.
Other garden-related activities for
this month include visiting a local farm to cut a Christmas tree or to
greens for decorating, and checking houseplants weekly for pests.