I feel like December is really the only month I truly get to rest in the garden. That doesn’t mean I don’t do anything, but my chore list is much smaller. My December garden chores look more like clearing, building, mulching and waiting for spring. But there are some things that have to get done in the gardens.
My December Garden Chores
My December garden chores look more like a prep list. This is the time where I am prepping beds, securing compost and generally planning for the rest of winter and spring. Sometimes, if the weather is nice, I go ahead and plant some things that I know are frost hardy.
Where are we?
We live in the foothills Appalachian Mountains in Northeast Georgia. That means that we are in zone 7B and usually we end up with a frost around November 1st. The thing about living in the southeast is that while it may be December, it is not uncommon for us to have 80* days and 40* nights.
Where we are, we don’t usually get snow but we could get an ice storm. This makes gardening a challenge because we are never really sure what weather we are going to end up with.
I mentioned in the November Garden Chores post that mulching is so underrated but probably the most important thing you could do. And I’m going to say it again. Make sure you mulch your garden beds! This is so important for putting organic matter back into your soil, feeding soil microbes and so many other amazing things for your soil. These are just some of the tips that I picked up from Diane Miessler in her book Grow Your Soil.
Mulching will also help make your job easier in the spring because mulching helps to suppress weed growth.
Depending on where you live or the stage of your garden, this may look different for you. For us, since our soil never really freezes, we are able to keep working our beds almost year round. What I usually do to prep my beds is making sure that I have added a ton of organic matter and then covered it. So again, mulching. But I will also all of our leave litter to the beds.
Some people say to leave the leaf litter where it falls to allow for native insects to have a place to live. And I TOTALLY agree. Except, we live in the south. We have tons of spiders, snakes and other creatures that I don’t necessarily want my dogs, kids, chickens or goats to run into. So we pick up all that leave litter and put it in our beds or compost. Those creatures can go live in my garden beds for the winter.
This is going to look a little different for everyone, but for us, this is making sure that we have plenty of animal bedding in the coops and barn. I talked in depth about using animal bedding as compost here. I practice the deep litter method in my barns and coops to ensure that there is plenty of compost for spring. I also make sure that we are adding to our compost bin. But since most of our kitchen scraps go to the chickens or the pigs, that’s not really a lot.
We’ve also found that because we don’t till our raised beds, or in ground spaces, we actually can add various organic matters straight to the beds and the beds have enough life to break it down without affecting the plants.
Another way that we secure compost is by contacting various neighbors. We have several horse, cow and chicken farmers around us. We tend to stay away from the chicken farmers because they don’t usually practice organics and we don’t want that on our gardens. But we will reach out to several neighbors and see if they have what we are looking for.
For you, that may look like asking if you can have their leaf litter. If your neighbors are bagging up their leaves? Go grab that from them!
I am a planner by nature and I have a whole category where I talk about planning your homestead. But I go a little overboard when it comes to the garden. Especially considering that I am a Chaotic Gardener. During December, I really go through all my garden prompts and journal for that year and try to figure out where I can improve.
Since our goal is to grow 75% of our, and our animals food, we really need to make sure to dial in our gardens as much as possible. This means ensuring that what we start in January is working, that we are putting in bumper crops, and getting us closer and closer to that goal.
We also make sure to plan any infrastructure that we need for the gardens. Things like irrigation, building or replacing beds, and sourcing soil, compost, mulch, etc.
This is also the time to figure out where we are going to put things in the garden. We want to make sure that we have plenty of space but also plants. For example, we can a ton of tomato sauce every year. We also make ketchup and BBQ sauce. Then we dehydrate a ton for tomato powder. That’s a ton of tomatoes that we need to grow. We are talking on average we need about 1,000 pounds of tomatoes or 200+ tomato plants.
We also want to make sure that we are rotating what we plant. We don’t want to put heavy feeders in the same place two years in a row. Sometimes, it’s necessary and that means that we need to make sure that we support the soil as much as possible.
Another part to making sure that we are planning the garden “correctly” is that we prioritize our plantings. This means that we need to look at what we NEED vs what we want to try. Now, we have 15,000 sqft of garden space, so the chances of us running out of room is slim but it is possible. But more to the point, those 200+ tomato plants are more important for our food security than cut flowers for the table.
Working Outside In Winter
Our winters are usually pretty wet, so getting out into the garden can be challenging. There is a lot of time spent in the greenhouse or inside because it is chilly and wet.
Make sure that if you are working outside in the winter, you are properly layered. Again, it’s not abnormal for us to have 70-80* days in December. But at 730 in the morning, it could be 34*. So make sure that whatever your weather, you’ve got enough layers or just wait until the sun is out and you can enjoy the warmth.
What are your December Garden Chores?
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