Hands in the Dirt: MLT gardening tips for December 2020

For most gardeners, December will be spent looking at seed and tool catalogs and dreaming about spring. Given the recent increase in interest in gardening due to the pandemic and potential seed shortages as the gardening industry adjusts to the demand, it could be a good idea to get seed orders in as early as possible.

Here in Mountlake Terrace, it’s too cold to do a lot of work in the soil. Most of the outside work should be dedicated to existing plants – either protecting them or moving them.

Plants can be protected from frost and freezing temps by mulching, or by covering them prior to cold temperatures. While “official” gardening materials like a cloche or row cover work great, other items from around the house can also save your plants. So if you are worried about that beautiful pineapple sage plant that is just now blooming and the hummingbirds love, go ahead and grab an extra sheet or blanket from the linen closet and tuck your plant in for the night. Other items that work include drop cloths, plastic sheeting, towels and cardboard boxes. The goal is to keep freezing air from direct contact with moisture on the plant, so make sure the cover reaches the ground and traps the warm air inside. For smaller plants, an overturned nursery pot can make an excellent (and cheap) improvised cloche.  If you use anything made of plastic, try to elevate it off of the plant so there isn’t direct contact, as that can trap moisture and do more damage than good.

As long as the soil is not frozen or soggy, December is a good time for transplanting. Plants can also be divided now. Moving plants in December or January will allow them time to acclimate into their new location and grow roots during our winter rainy season. To give plants the best chance at thriving, transplant when a hard freeze is more than a few days off so they have some time to settle in

About the BOG

The Ballinger Organic Garden (BOG) is a volunteer-led effort to develop a community garden at Ballinger Park. The BOG, in partnership with MLT Recreation & Parks and the MLT Senior Center and funded by a grant from the MLT Community Foundation, is currently in “Phase 0” while larger construction activities (creek restoration and trail installation) are completed.  Phase 0 includes maintenance of the existing raised beds and a garden plot on the south side of the MLT Senior Center in Ballinger Park. Phase 1 will involve installation of a larger garden with plots available for community members to maintain.  Want to volunteer, or have an idea of what you want to see in the future garden? Please let us know.

To stay up to date on what is happening at the BOG, including what’s growing, work parties, and events, follow us on Facebook  or Instagram.

Robyn Rice grew up in Eastern Washington, pulling weeds and picking up rotten fruit as dreaded chores assigned by her Master Gardener father. Today, Robyn is a fisheries biologist for an environmental consulting firm, and has been gardening in the Seattle area since 2010. Her science background leads to endless research about the “correct” way to do things, but her enthusiasm and sense of adventure leads her to garden fearlessly because hey, what’s the worst that could happen?



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