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Garden Gossip

December, 2023

Protecting Citrus and Vegetables

It is about to get cold!! If you have a Satsuma or Meyer Lemon it is time to either cover your tree or move it into a protected area. You can move it to a garage or barn to keep it from freezing. While these trees can handle temperatures in the 28 degree range, the fruit will freeze at 32 degrees. You can use the winter cloth to cover your tree. I have a Meyer Lemon and when we get temperatures close to freezing I often double cover my tree which is planted in the ground. If you have an electrical outlet nearby you can put a light underneath the tree and it will help to raise the temperature under the cloth. It is increasingly harder to find incandescent bulbs to provide the heat. I am going check out brooder lights used to keep baby chickens, ducks and geese warm. The winter cloth is breathable and can be left on for a few days while we have the coldest weather but should be removed during the day so the tree can get sunshine and then recovered if there are still more cold nights ahead.

The cloth is available in 15 and 30 foot widths. We have some 15 X15 foot lengths already cut. The cost is $35. We will, however, custom cut any length you need.

I also use the cover cloth to save my lettuce and Swiss chard which could be damaged by the cold. I remove the cover during the day if the temperatures are above freezing to let the plants get some sun.

Fruit Trees

If you can find the time in December, dormant oil can be used this month on your fruit trees. The spray is a refined petroleum product formulated for use in the fruit orchard. It kills overwintering insects and their eggs by putting a thin layer of oil on the tree which suffocates them. It should be applied when the temperature is above freezing and when no rain or freezing temperatures are forecast for at least 24 hours after you spray. This oil controls mostly mites and scale on fruit plants. We usually spray at least twice in the winter with this oil.

If you have been having problems with insects this year you could add some malathion to the oil spray. Follow the directions on the label for the amount to use.

Cumberland Spur Apples, Fresh Fruit-1500


It is not too late to plant spring flowering bulbs. The selection is still good. Don’t wait too long or they won’t have a chance to make roots and flower before the weather gets too warm. We have a good selection of bulbs that are suited to our southern climate. Think about Tinkling Yellow a great narcissus for our southern climate. It blooms early and enjoys our summer heat without artificial irrigation.

Don’t plant your bulbs as deep as suggested in many bulb catalogs. In central Alabama plant them just beneath the soil or they won’t get enough chilling. It is always good to add a little bulb booster or fertilizer when planting.


Pansies can still be planted in December. The selection of pansies at Petals is excellent. There are trailing pansies called Cool Wave, great for containers and hanging baskets. There are violas and the larger flowered pansy. If you are looking for lots of blooms violas would be a great choice.

Pansies and violas should be planted in full sun to light shade in a slightly acid soil. Use a water soluble fertilizer. 15-3-20, 15-3-30, 13-2-13 are some suggested ratios. Avoid slow release fertilizers since they are less effective in the cooler weather. Watering pansies will vary with the season. You will have to water more in the fall and spring and less in the winter months when it is cooler and the ground stays more moist.

Onions & Garlic

Garlic can still be planted. It is easy to grow and takes up very little space in the garden. Break the head of garlic into cloves and set the cloves 2 to 4 inches apart and about 2″deep root side pointed down. Using the largest cloves will give you the biggest heads of garlic when you harvest. Plant in a sunny location. Garlic likes well drained soil with a PH of 6.5 or 7. Lime the soil if you haven’t done so recently and work in a little fertilizer, bone meal or fish meal into the soil.

This year I am going to plant onions. I have never planted them in the past. Short day onions are the ones that should be planted here in the south. They are planted in winter for a spring/summer harvest. Onions grow best in full sun in loose , well drained fertile soil with plenty or organic matter. The ph of the soil should be between 6.0 and 6.8. I will lime my row in the garden since most of our soil is acid.

Thanks to Hoss Tools for this great bundle of Vidora onion sets. Check out their website for growing directions and short or long day onion sets.

Christmas Hours

Petals will be closed for the Christmas holiday from December 24 to January 3. We will reopen on January 4. We wish every one a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday. We look forward to serving all your garden needs in 2024.