December Gardening Activities - Region 2

Gardening Tips for December

Southwest, Desert, Interior Valleys and Southern California Gardens

Learn2Grow Region 2 Map

States in the region:

Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas (Western), Oklahoma (Western)
and California (Desert, Interior Valleys, Southern)

Key Issues for December

  • Delight children this holiday season with the gift of gardening! Growums garden kits are designed to show kids and adults alike how awesome and easy it is to grow their own vegetables and herbs – and they encourage kids to eat healthy foods! Six fun garden themes are available (Herb, Pizza, Ratatouille, Salad, Stir-Fry and Taco), as well as three mini kits (Fruit Cup, Melon Blast and Pumpkin Patch). Visit to learn more!
  • Help your cut Christmas tree last through the holidays: Keep it moist and choose a spot away from drying air ducts and any heat sources, including TVs, radiators and fireplaces. (Remember, dry plant material is a fire hazard! Keep your trees watered and fresh.)
  • Plant bare-root trees and shrubs now through the end of February. Order your bare-root roses in December for delivery in late winter.
  • Keep raking if the leaves keep falling. Toss them in a basic compost pile or shred leaves to use in landscape beds and borders.
  • Give a personalized, inexpensive gift for the holidays that keeps on growing: seeds from your garden! Homemade holiday cards and ornaments containing seeds are as fun to make as they are to give – and grow!
  • Plant vegetables for a seasonal harvest – there are many great winter veggies that you can grow! Good choices for your region this time of year include lettuce, carrots, broccoli, squash, green beans, cabbage, tomatoes and those flavor-filled herbs!
  • Deck the halls with a traditional holiday favorite: the poinsettia. Today’s beauties come in a variety of colors, including the classic red, as well as shades of white, pink, purple and mottled/spotted. (Fun fact: The poinsettia is actually a medium-sized deciduous shrub native to western Mexico!)
  • Buy cyclamen, amaryllis (in bud) and other holiday plants early, so you’ll have weeks – not days – of enjoyment.
  • Consider buying a balled-and-burlapped or container Christmas tree that you can enjoy inside your home, then make a permanent part of your landscape after the holidays. Keep the tree outside until you’re ready to bring it indoors (7-10 days inside). Plant it after the New Year – and remember to water!
  • Get a compost keeper for the kitchen. (Consider adding it to your holiday “wish list.”) Some produce scraps you’d otherwise throw away can be used to make great compost for your spring garden.
  • Finish planting your bulbs now (or wish you had come spring)! Worried about pests digging up all your hard work? You can protect bulbs from animal pests by creating a wire barrier around your plantings.
  • Fertilize your lawn to assure healthy turf come spring. Apply potash (potassium) to grow strong roots that can survive the colder months ahead.
  • Consider using English holly in your landscape as a tall, elegant screen or hedgerow, or as a lovely corner accent. A plant for all seasons, the glossy, dark-green leaves of this evergreen tree are beautiful year-round – especially in fall and winter when contrasted with its clusters of cheerful red berries. Holiday bonus: The foliage and fruits are highly desired as decorative cut sprigs this time of year.
  • Take care of our feathered friends – a source of fresh water and food will encourage them to your landscape. Keep feeders stocked so birds don’t have to search for food. If you’ve never tried feeding birds before, go the festive route: Creating a holiday bird-feeding tree is a fun way to get started!
  • Zap lawn disease! Dig out unwanted Bermuda grass from evergreen lawns – it should be dormant, brown and easy to find. Also be on the lookout for brown patch, a fungal disease that pops up this time of year. Consider applying an appropriate fungicide, carefully reading and following all label instructions.
  • Protect your perennials: Keep them well-watered, especially if you live in dry areas. (It’s not too late to apply mulch, too.)
  • Take on a construction project while the weather’s nice and cool: Build a shade structure, put up an arbor or fix an old garden gate. (See, you can still work in the garden in winter!)
  • In snowy areas, take some preventative winter care in the garden to avoid ice and snow loads that can damage multistemmed evergreens like upright arborvitae, yews, boxwoods and junipers. Gather all branches together with twine, so wet snows and ice can’t bend and separate them, causing them to split.
  • If needed, apply horticultural oil as a dormant application on fruit and ornamental trees and shrubs. This smothers any potential insects (particularly scale) that want to overwinter on desirable plants. Always read and follow all label directions and warnings carefully before you spray, and apply the product when air temperatures will be above freezing for 24 hours after the application.
  • Control cool-season weeds – don’t let them take over your landscape!
  • Establish self-sufficient plants. Spot-check any newly planted trees, shrubs and perennials for watering needs. If there’s been no rain for a week, you need to drag out the hose and water your plants. Remember, newly installed sod needs water, too!