2020 December Gardening Tips by Ira Wallace of Southern Exposure Seed Exchange
& author of Vegetable Gardening in the Southeast and Grow great Vegetables in Virginia
December is a quiet time of year for most vegetable gardens but we’re still enjoying abundant harvests of fresh greens (collards, kale, mustards, Asian greens), parsley, cilantro, green onions, leeks and tender sweet winter root crops. A covering of medium to heavy weight spun polyester row cover can keep many of your surviving hardy crops producing thru winter and into early spring. Collard Week, December 14-17, 2020, just past but you can still enjoy this great celebration of the diversity of Heirloom collards at www.heirloomcollards.org and on youtube https://www.youtube.com/c/culinarybreedingnetwork . Check out African American Jewish scholar and author of The Cooking Gene and blog Afroculinaria Michael Twitty.
December is also a good time to review your last year’s garden and plan for the coming season.
Local gardening books like Grow Great Vegetables in Virginia can help with planning. Pay special attention to which weeds grow in different areas. They are good indicators of the condition of your soil. Dock and morning glory indicate low calcium and phosphorus levels. Trumpet vine, dock, polk weed and other deep-rooted weeds indicate a compacted subsoil. If you’d like to learn more about garden weeds, Weeds and What They Tell Us by E. Pfeiffer contains a wealth of information about what weeds can tell you about your soil, and how to control them naturally.
Don’t forget to go through your stored winter vegetables every week or two and cull out all the bad ones. Cut the green sprouts off any sprouting onions to use as onion greens. Carrots growing under row cover can be exceptionally sweet in winter and there is nothing quite as delicious and tender as frost nipped collards or kale. But between Nov 21 and Jan 21 when plants grow slowly or not at all so now is the time to garden on paper.
There are a number of online and digital tools to help with garden planning. You can try our Southern Exposure Seed Exchange Garden Planner free for 15 days to see how it works for you. If you need more cold frames to get an early start on spring planting Gardenway’s “Building and Using Cold Frames” has a number of simple, easy-to-build plans just right to fill a cold December day with thoughts of spring. Place your seed orders early to avoid disappointment and to add something new and fun to your garden in 2021.