Gardening To Do List - December in the Garden

Regional Gardening Guide for December

a plant covered in a snow

The Spruce 

Many of us do more shopping and planning for our gardens during the winter months than actual gardening but that doesn't mean there's nothing to do. In the warmer zones, December is the start of pleasant weather and a chance to enjoy planting cool season vegetables and flowers that don't tolerate your summers. Northern gardeners should use this period without leaves to scout for egg masses and other signs of trouble on trees and shrubs. Here are some more regional gardening tips for the beginning of winter.

In General

  • Keep watering your holiday plants and give them plenty of light.
  • Check houseplants and any plants you brought indoors for the winter, for insects that may have hitched a ride. With the heat on, they can multiply quickly.
  • Also check any bulbs, corms, tubers and bare root plants for dessication or rot.
  • Start eating those stored vegetables and think about planting more winter squash next year.
  • Feed the birds.

Zones 6 and Lower

Let's be real, garden catalogs are the closest you're going to come to gardening outside this month. But for the intrepid:

  • Keep an eye out for bark damage from ice rabbits, deer....
  • Spray broadleaf evergreens with anti-desiccant, to prevent dehydration.
  • Use the branches from your Christmas tree as protective mulch.
  • Keep watering newly planted trees and shrubs.


  • Be prepared for sudden swings in temperature and protect tender plants with row covers, newspaper or blankets.
  • Prepare your planting beds now, with compost and manure, for planting in early spring.
    [Video: Adding Compost to a Garden Bed.]
  • You should still be able to plant trees and shrubs.
  • Start pruning your wisteria by removing the longer canes.


  • Ease up on fertilizing plants, so new growth won't get damaged by temperature drops.
  • Take advantage of cooler temps by planting quick cool-weather crops like spinach, lettuce or peas.
  • Be prepared for sudden cold snaps with row covers or make shift cloches (soda bottles and milk jugs).


Southern California

Northern California

  • Watch out for snails during wet season.
  • Feed winter-flowering shrubs.
  • Be prepared for sudden cold snaps with row covers or make shift cloches (soda bottles and milk jugs).
  • Protect young citrus trees and small fruits from frost damage by draping row covers.

Pacific Northwest

  • Wet soil makes weeds grow, but it also makes them easier to pull. Start pulling.
  • Begin pruning dead branches from trees and shrubs, as they go dormant.