Add this to your holiday to-do list: December home and garden chores!

So what if this month’s not the busiest in the garden? There’s still plenty to do around your home and yard.

Take care of indoor plants     Ease up on the watering and fertilization of your houseplants. But, if you stick your finger a half-inch into the soil and if it comes out dry, go get the pitcher. Watering plants is a great way for kids and grandkids to help around the house and build self-confidence – (my 2½-year-old daughter, is very proud of her role as Houseplant Helper). Move faded or sickly-looking ones in north-facing windows to east- or west-facing ones, and those in east- or west-facing windows to south-facing ones.

Create winter interest – feed the birds   For great reading on this, check out the Feb. 13, 2009 North Coast Gardening blog “The Winter-Interest Secret Most Gardeners Forget: or How to Attract Birds”

Decorate your home and yard – safely    Celebrate the season with safety in mind, with these tips from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission:

  • Only buy artificial trees labeled “fire resistant.”
  • If buying a live tree, make sure it’s fresh (needles don’t pull off; branches don’t break) and keep it well-watered and away from heat sources.
  • Keep any small or breakable ornaments away from kids.
  • Never use holiday lights on a metallic tree or near power or feeder lines from utility poles.
  • Turn off all holiday lights before you go to bed or leave the house. Use no more than three standard-size sets of lights per single extension cord, and make sure the cord is rated for the intended use.
  • Outdoor electric lights and decorations should be certified for outdoor use, hung only with insulated staples or hooks and should be plugged into circuits protected by ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs).
  • Consider replacing candles with LED flameless ones

Keep an eye on that garden      Since I live in Zone 6a, that means looking out the kitchen window at my snow-covered landscape and thumbing through the garden catalogs.

Those of you in warmer regions, however, can find fantastic regional gardening tips for December in a recent post by About.com gardening blogger Marie Iannotti suggests region-specific tasks that include protecting tender plants with row covers or homemade cloches like milk jugs and soda bottles, feeding winter-flowering shrubs, cutting back ornamental grasses, planting trees and shrubs, starting seeds for cool-season flowers and vegetables, planting bare root roses and adding compost and manure to planting beds to get them ready for spring.

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