The December Garden Report – lessons I’ve learned in 2016

December Garden Report - my best plot in December 2016
December Garden Report – my best plot in December 2016

It is time for the December Garden Report.  It is now the first week of December, and midway into the time for the first frost. The first frost dates in Zone 9 are from November 15 to December 15. Around here, it has been dipping into the high 50-degree range in the morning, but there has been no frost or even near-frost temperatures yet. However, next week is predicted to get colder. The futurecast says 31 degrees around here on the morning of the 8th. Get some cold frames or hoop houses ready, as I mentioned in my earlier post.

Herbs

So, walking through my garden, the first plots are devoted to herbs. Follow along with my garden layout here. The mint was cut back earlier last month; dead woody stems were cut out, but there are still green leaves. The ant bed is still active; I failed to get rid of it. A post on natural ways to get rid of ants in the garden will be in the future.

The Stevia died, and was cut back. I thought it was a perennial plant, but I guess not.

The Oregano is still growing vigorously; I trimmed it back into its own plot.

The Lemon Basil planted this year is still growing, but is now going to seed. One thing I plan to learn is how to harvest seeds, instead of relying on the seed companies for each new season.

The regular Basil plant is pretty much dead except for a few green tips.  Last month, as part of the garden cleanup, I cut the dead woody growth out. I thought it was a perennial plant, so I left the woody stems in the ground.

My Parsley that was planted earlier in the summer is still green and growing strong.

The Rosemary is still growing.

The Sage is still growing.

Vegetables

The tomato plant I told you about earlier that didn’t do well after the transplant is still growing and producing tomatoes, although it is more of a bush, as opposed to a vine. It is a Husky Cherry Red Tomato, an indeterminate hybrid. As I write this post, I keep going out into the garden to check things.  Note to self: keep better notes!

The Chives are still growing, and being harvested.

The Garlic has one last sprout coming up, but we dug most of it up earlier. I will plant a lot more next year.  This year, the garlic was an experiment. I planted grocery store garlic, just to see if it would grow.  A couple of years ago, I planted store-bought Jerusalem Artichokes, and they grew, but they were accidentally uprooted before they were mature.

The plots of lettuce, spinach and carrots planted in late October came up sparingly. Possibly it was still too hot to germinate.  Some are growing. Next year, the fall garden will be planted later.

The onions are sprouting and growing well.  Garlic is also growing.

My second tomato plant, the larger one, is just about done, but is still producing cherry tomatoes. I have had more success over the years with cherry tomatoes than with the larger beefsteak-type ones. Birds seem to get the bigger ones; Leaf-footed bugs and  stink bugs like the cherry tomatoes.

The chili peppers are still growing and producing red peppers. We planted two plants this year, dried a bunch, and haven’t used them up yet. The rest are just going to seed. We won’t be planting red pepper for ourselves next year, as we don’t use that much of it to justify a whole plant.

The Japanese Eggplant is done for the season; my wife picked the last ones, now there is just leaves on the plant.

The Bell Peppers are still green and producing peppers. This variety didn’t have large peppers, but it was a good harvest. We planted red, yellow and green peppers.

In another fall plot planted in spinach, lettuce and carrots, very few sprouted.  Note for next year: don’t plant the fall garden until later in the season. This is another illustration on the need to have good garden notes, so you can refer to notes on the best planting dates.

The second crop of Corn has been cut down; the companion-planted beans are still green, but not producing anymore.

The last plot I planted for the fall garden is going well.  I will check my notes on when it was planted.  The Swiss Chard planted earlier is still growing; but the lettuce has already bolted. Later plantings of beets, kale and lettuce are growing well. We are already harvesting leaves of lettuce and kale for salads.

My biggest Comfrey plant is growing in this plot. I planted Comfrey as a miner plant, to bring up nutrients from deep below the surface. The large Comfrey leaves can be cut and used as a cover mulch.

Another fall plot planted in broccoli, cauliflower and lettuce didn’t grow well. There are just a few plants of broccoli and kale growing. Lots of red clover, though.  Of a total of 5 plots in fall vegetables, only the last one planted, grew.

The Watermelon vines are dried up; there are just two little watermelons left over. I will take those out, and prepare that bed for spring.

The Cauliflower plants are growing well. My wife says there might be a head forming, but I haven’t seen it yet.  The companion dill is also growing well. We had a pot of mint as a companion plant, but it began growing out of the pot, so we took it out. We didn’t want it growing wild everywhere.

The Malabar spinach is going to seed.  The seeds are black color now; they have purple juice when you squeeze them. There are still many leaves on the vines. My wife prefers the young leaves for salads, so she has quit picking the spinach this year. The plant will self-seed and next year, plants will come up everywhere there are vines this year, so there is no need to harvest the seeds. If anyone wants some seeds, I have a lot to give away.

The Broccoli heads seem to be loose; they need to be harvested right away. We picked the first head last week; there are about 3-4 more still growing.

Finally, in the last plot, the Okra was cut down earlier.

Things I’ve learned and Things To Do for 2017

The best-performing plot was the latest one planted in kale and other vegetables.  Other plants still growing well are the broccoli and cauliflower. Peppers are still going, but slowing down; the tomatoes are dying out.

My garden “things to do” list for December includes educating myself: Which plants are perennial or annual; seed harvesting; getting rid of ants in the garden; and better note keeping. Also on the list is reading the seed catalogs, and planning the spring garden.

Tell me, what do you do in December and January,gardening-wise? Just let the garden go, or do you keep up with things that need doing? Tell the community in the comment section below.

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