Garden Tips for December

David Hillock

Lawn & Turf

  • Remove leaves from cool-season grasses or mow with a mulching mower. HLA-6420)
  • Continue mowing cool-season lawns on a regular basis. HLA-6420)
  • Continue to control broadleaf weeds in well-established warm- or cool-season lawns with a post-emergent broadleaf weed killer.

Tree & Shrubs

  • Select a freshly cut Christmas tree.  Make a new cut prior to placing in tree stand.  Add water daily.
  • Live Christmas trees are a wise investment, as they become permanent additions to the landscape after the holidays.
  • Light prunings of evergreens can be used for holiday decorations.  Be careful with sap that can mar surfaces.


  • Apply winter mulch to protect rose bush bud unions and other perennials.  Wait until after several early freezes or you will give insects a good place to winter.
  • Poinsettias must have at least six hours of bright, indirect light daily.  Keep plants away from drafts.

Fruits & Nuts

  • Cover strawberry plants with a mulch about 3 to 4 inches thick if plants are prone to winter injury.
  • Wait to prune fruit trees until late February or March.


  • Keep all plants watered during dry conditions even though some may be dormant.
  • Irrigate all plantings at least 24 hours before hard-freezing weather if soil is dry. (HLA‑6404)
  • Order gardening supplies for next season.
  • Now is a great time to design and make structural improvements in your garden and landscape.
  • Send for mail-order catalogs if you are not already on their mailing lists.
  • Christmas gift ideas for the gardener might include tools, kneeling benches/seats, garden books and magazine subscriptions.
  • Clean and fill bird feeders.
  • Make sure indoor plants are receiving enough light, or set up an indoor fluorescent plant light.
  • Till garden plots without a cover crop to further expose garden pests to harsh winter conditions.
  • Visit your county extension office to obtain gardening fact sheets for the new gardening season.
  • Join a horticulture, plant or urban forestry society and support community “greening” or “beautification” projects.
  • Review your garden records so you can correct past mistakes.  Purchase a new gardening journal or calendar to keep the New Year’s gardening records.

Garden Tips for January

  • If precipitation has been deficient (1” of snow = ~ 1/10” of water), water lawns, trees, and shrubs, especially broadleaf and narrowleaf evergreens. Double check moisture in protected or raised planters.
  • Check on supplies of pesticides. Secure a copy of current recommendations and post them in a convenient place. Dilution and quantity tables are also useful.
  • If you did not treat young pines for tip borers in November, do so before March.
  • Check that gardening tools and equipment are in good repair—sharpen, paint, and repair mowers, edgers, sprayers, and dusters.
  • Inspect your irrigation system and replace worn or broken parts.
  • Control overwintering insects on deciduous trees or shrubs with dormant oil sprays applied when the temperature is above 40°F in late fall and winter. Do not use “dormant” oils on evergreens. (EPP-7306)
  • A product containing glyphosate plus a postemergent broadleaf herbicide can be used on dormant bermudagrass in January or February when temperatures are above 50°F for winter weed control.

Selecting and Caring for Your Fresh Christmas Tree

David Hillock

Selecting a fresh Christmas tree is important so that you can enjoy the tree longer and reduce the risk of a hazard.

Check for freshness by gently bending the needles on the tree. If the needles bend easily and don’t break, then the tree is pretty fresh. Another way to check for freshness is to lift the tree several inches off the ground and then drop it on the stump end; if an abundance of outer green needles fall off, the tree is not very fresh. Of course you can always visit a local “Choose and Cut” Christmas tree farm ensuring freshness of your tree.

Once you get your live tree home, it should be placed in water as soon as possible so it won’t dry out. If you purchase a tree from a retail store, cut one inch off the bottom of the trunk to create a fresh cut that will absorb water. A tree purchased from a Choose and Cut farm should be placed in water as soon as you get home. Do not let the stump dry out or you will have to make a fresh cut. A new tree will take up quite a bit of water the first few days so be sure to check the container or tree stand frequently and keep it full of water. Never let your tree get dry or it quickly becomes a hazard.

The best way to ensure that you are getting a fresh Christmas tree is to buy one directly from one of the many Christmas tree farms in Oklahoma. Each one offers a different experience, but one that is always a fun and memorable one for the family. Some of the farms offer more than just Christmas trees – wreaths, garland, table decorations and gifts may be available too. To make the experience more memorable, some also offer free hot cider, hot chocolate, coloring books and candy canes as well as children’s activities.

The Oklahoma Christmas Tree Association website,, provides a list farms currently selling Christmas trees as well as other information. Currently there are 12 locations in 10 different counties. These Oklahoma grown trees are beautiful, fresh, green Christmas trees which were carefully planted and nurtured for years specifically for you this Christmas.

Christmas Cactus

David Hillock

Next to poinsettias the Christmas cactus can be a popular houseplant for the holidays. In general they are easy to grow and can live for a long time with the proper care. Native to the tropics they are used to growing in the canopies of trees and receiving moderate amounts of moisture. Thus, a medium light intensity and a soil high in organic matter are suggested. Do not allow the plant to dry out, water when the soil surface begins to feel dry. The plant may be kept drier in autumn. Any houseplant fertilizer may be used according to label directions.

Like poinsettias they have special requirements to get them to bloom. Cool temperatures or long nights are required to induce blooming. The plants bloom when given night temperatures near 55 degrees and day temperatures below 65 degrees. Plants will not flower at temperatures above 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

Flowering is related to day length and night temperatures. No research has supported the rumor that a “dry down” period induces flowering. The temperature range for flower bud development is 55 to 65 degrees for a 6-week period. If temperatures remain in this range they will develop buds regardless of day length. If temperatures get above that range, the plant will need at least 12 to 14 hours of uninterrupted darkness each night. This can be done by placing them in a completely dark room, or covering them for the recommended time, or longer, each night with a dark piece of cloth. Or just keep the plants in total darkness like a closet till buds develop. For holiday blooms this usually means in late September to mid-October.

During flower bud formation, stop fertilizing and only water enough to keep the leaves from becoming shriveled. Once buds form then you can keep the plant in normal light and temperatures. Keep it evenly moist and fertilize every other week with a diluted fertilizer solution. Bud drop may occur due to over or under watering or being placed in drafty areas.

A Christmas cactus plant will live for a long time in the same pot if proper soil was used originally and if the plant is fertilized and watered regularly. If the plant becomes top-heavy or root bound, move it to a larger pot.

The ideal schedule of a Christmas Cactus:

  •  February to March - Resting (55 degrees, infrequent watering).
  • April to May - Water thoroughly when potting mix begins to dry out.
  • June to August - Place outdoors in a shady spot.
  • September to October - Plant prepares to flower. Reduce length daylight hours. Keep on the dry side and cool (55 to 65 degrees F) until flower buds form. Then increase water and temperature.
  • November to December - Flowering. Water normally. Temperature no less than 55 degrees F.

4-H Horticulture Judging Contest Updates

Shelley Mitchell

Starting next year, the identification part of the horticulture judging contest will be expanded to include a new category, Turfgrasses and Weeds, as well as additional specimens in the other categories. The updated list is on the OSU Horticulture and Landscape Architecture webpage at The contest occurs in the fall each year, in conjunction with other 4-H contests in Entomology, Agronomy, and Consumer Science. Junior and senior 4‑H youth compete in horticulture identification and judging, then go over the correct answers and tour the OSU teaching greenhouses, finishing with a fun activity over plants.

Sharpen that Blade Now!

David Hillock

As mowers are put away for the season, one of the more important maintenance practices suggested is to sharpen that blade! Studies have shown that some of the problems we have with weakened lawns may not be due to environmental stresses, but can be directly linked with failure to keep the mower blade sharp. A dull mower blade rips the grass, instead of cutting it cleanly. The ripping action makes a long, slow healing wound that makes disease invasion more pervasive. It can also lead to extensive tip dieback of the grass blade itself that reduces the effective photosynthetic area left to the grass following a cut.

Mower blades should be sharpened on a regular basis, and there is no better time to do it than as that mower is stored for the winter. This insures that the first cut is a good “sharp” one!

Continuing Education/In-service Opportunity for Master Gardeners and County Educators

David Hillock

Register now for the Horticulture Industry Show (HIS) on January 13-14, 2017. HIS provides an opportunity to learn more about vegetables, fruits, sustainable Ag, farmer’s markets, Christmas trees, and Master Gardener and Public Gardens.

This year HIS will be held at the Chancellor Hotel, 70 N. East Avenue, downtown Fayetteville, AR. All Master Gardeners and County Educators are invited to attend. If you are a returning Master Gardener, you can receive Continuing Education hours that will count towards the minimum 20 hours you need to keep active member status. If you are a County Educator, you can receive in-service hours by attending.   

Register today by going to the conference website Registration before December 29 is $55 for the 2-day conference or $42 for Friday only or $25 Saturday only. After December 29 registration goes up to $75 for 2 days and $60 for Friday only and $35 for Saturday only so don’t delay and register before December 29.

This should be another great conference, hope to see you there.

2017 Pecan and Grape Management Courses

Becky Carroll

The 2017 Pecan & Grape Management Course signups have begun. The brochures are available online at and

Reaching 1279 students since the courses began in 1997 and 2001, the OSU extension courses were set up to teach both new and experienced pecan and grape growers from around the state. The 2016 pecan class had 31 participants from around Oklahoma and one each from Missouri, Kansas and Texas. The final class was held on October 18. The emphasis was on harvest and marketing our pecan crops. The last grape class met on September 8 where the 26 class members had the opportunity to tour vineyards and wineries in the Anadarko area. The unique mix of veteran, beginner and potential growers makes the classes beneficial to all no matter their experience level. We learn a lot and have a good time too!

With expert speakers from OSU, the Noble Foundation for pecan, and the pecan and grape industries, class members get a well-rounded program of presentations and hands on activities. We appreciate all the expertise that these speakers provide.

The courses are scheduled so that management items can be addressed each month at the appropriate times. Class members have the opportunity to learn about growing pecan rootstock trees by actually participating in the process or planting and training new grapevines. Cimarron Valley Research Station personnel demonstrate equipment and share management techniques that are used at the site. Students learn about everything from business management to pest control to variety selection. Those class members with good attendance will receive a certificate of completion.

The fee for the 9-month course is $250 per person. The classes meet north of Perkins at the research station once a month from end of February through October for pecan, with the exception of June when participants are encouraged to attend the annual Oklahoma Pecan Growers’ Association meeting. The meeting times are on Tuesday afternoons from 1-5pm. Students also have access to the online pecan class and will receive details during the first class on how to access. Grape classes meet beginning in March through September on a Thursday afternoon from 1-5pm. County extension educators are welcome to attend courses for in-service credit. 

The 2017 pecan class will begin on February 28, 2017. Deadline for registration is February 14. The 2017 grape class will begin March 2, 2017 with registration due February 16. If you would like to enroll in the class or you know someone that would benefit from brushing up their management skills, please have them contact Stephanie Larimer. Her email is and phone number is 405-744-5404. If you have other questions concerning the class, please contact Becky Carroll at


 All-America Selections (2015 Regional and National Winners), 04/16

All-America Selection Winners 2017, 08/16

Alternatives for Turf in Shady Areas, 10/16

Anthracnose of Deciduous Shade Trees, 06/16

Applying Dormant Oils for Winter Insect Control, 02/16

Are My Peaches Going to Make This Year?, 04/16

Bagworms, 05/16

‘Blond Ambition’ Blue Gramma, 09/16

Building Healthy Soils, 09/16

Christmas Cactus, 12/16

Cutting Back Ornamental Grasses, 03/16

Deadheading, 06/16

Do Squash Cross Pollinate with Pumpkin?, 04/16

Establishing a New Vegetable Garden, 03/16

Establishing Turfgrasses, 07/16

Fall – A Good Time to Control Broadleaf Weeds, 10/16

Fall Gardening, 08/16

Fertilizing Asparagus, 02/16

4-H Horticulture Judging Contest Updates, 12/16

Fruit and Pecan New or Updated Fact Sheets, 02/16

Garden Tips for February, 02/16

Garden Tips for March, 03/16

Garden Tips for April, 04/16

Garden Tips for May, 05/16

Garden Tips for June, 06/16

Garden Tips for July, 07/16

Garden Tips for August, 08/16

Garden Tips for September, 09/16

Garden Tips for October, 10/16

Garden Tips for November, 11/16

Garden Tips for December and January, 12/16

Hellebores, 03/16

How Many Bedding Plants Do I Need?, 04/16

Injury Prevention Tips for Gardening, 07/16

Landscaping a Slope, 07/16

Lawn Fertilizer Tips, 04/16

Managing Vegetables in Challenging Seasons, 08/16

Midwest Fruit Pest Management Guide, 02/16

Oklahoma Proven Selections, 02/16

Pecan Crop Load Thinning Time, 08/16

Pecan Grafting, 05/16

Pecan Grafting Demonstration, 02/16

Pecan Graftwood Sources, 02/16

Pecan Harvest & Storage, 10/16

Pecan Leaf & Grape Petiole Sampling for Fertilization Recommendations, 07/16

Pecan Weevil Monitoring, 08/16

Plant Spring-Flowering Bulbs Now!, 10/16

Planting Trees, 04/16

Plants for Poorly Drained Soils, 09/16

Powdery Mildew of Ornamentals, 06/16

Pruning Hydrangea, 08/16

Pruning Shrubs: Rejuvenation and Renewal, 02/16

Scouting a Lawn Problem, 06/16

Selecting and Caring for Your Fresh Christmas Tree, 12/16

Sharpen that Blade Now!, 12/16

Soil Testing, 08/16

Sources for Fruit and Pecan Nurseries, 09/16

Summer is for Fall Harvest, 07/16

Summer Weed Control: Preventing Unnecessary Mowing, 04/16

Transplanting Tomatoes, 05/16

Twig Girdlers, 10/16

Using Cover Crops to Improve Soil, 09/16

Water Test, 04/16

Weed Control in Vegetable Gardens, 06/16


Weed Control Important in Fruit Crops, 06/16

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