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By William Johnson
Typical gardening activities taper off at this time of year.
Even though we have received a plentiful 50+ inches
of rain from Hurricane Harvey about 3 months ago, we
have received very little rain since that time. So while
our annual rainfall to date is quite impressive, the rainfall
that started on Sunday is much needed as our area
was entering into a pre-drought stage.
The month of December ushers in a state of dormancy
for many landscape trees and shrubs. What is
good for plants is oftentimes good for the gardener. The
month of December offers something for every gardener
to do and even enjoy. Review the following gardening
checklist for December for gardening reminders and
educational programs:
Applications Accepted for Master Gardener Course:
Interested in becoming a Master Gardener? Applications
are being accepted for the 2018 Galveston County
Master Gardener Training Course which will start in
February. Applications and other information are available
online (
index.html). Applications must be received by the
AgriLife Extension Office by Wednesday, January 10.
Master Gardener Newsletter Online: The Galveston
County Master Gardeners’ newsletter is crammed full
of useful information on Gulf Coast gardening ranging
from commonly found insect pests in the garden to
Master Gardeners listing their favorite landscape and
vegetable plants. The November/December newsletter
issue is available online (http: //aggie-horticulture.tamu.
Master Gardener Horticulture Demonstration Garden
Tour: The Master Gardeners
will conduct a “Garden with the
Masters” program on Thursday,
December 7. If you would like
to see a flourishing array of
cool season vegetables, then
be sure to visit the Master
Gardeners’ Discovery Garden
in Carbide Park on Thursday,
Dec. 7. This has been a banner
year for broccoli, cauliflower,
cabbage, spinach and other
leafy greens. Visitors are welcome
to causally tour the vegetable
gardens, fruit orchard, Earth-Kind landscaping
bed and the Serenity Garden from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m.
Growing Tomato Transplants from Seed Seminar:
Conducted on Saturday, December 9, from 9:00 –
11:30 a.m. at the Galveston County AgriLife Extension
Office in Carbide Park (4102-B Main St., La Marque).
Many serious tomato growers prefer to grow their own
transplants from seeds as they have a wider selection
of varieties to choose from and can have transplants
ready earlier than those available at nurseries. Master
Gardener Ira Gervais is our tomato whisperer and will
share his tips for growing tomatoes from seeds.
Topics include how to pick the best varieties including
heirlooms, where to obtain seeds, planting and growing
techniques, and insect and disease control. A limited
selection of seeds from several heirloom tomato varieties
will be available free-of-charge. No fee but preregistration
required (phone 281-309-5065 or e-mail
Journey of Two Frugal Master Gardeners Seminar:
Conducted on Saturday, December 9, from 1:00 – 3:00
p.m. at the Galveston County AgriLife Extension Office
in Carbide Park (4102-B Main St., La Marque). Master
Gardener Brenda Slough will provide a presentation
that will explore the various types and techniques
of plant propagation for you to assess which type(s)
will best fit for your gardening needs. She will focus
on chip budding as economical method to propagate
bulbs. Pre-registration required (phone 281-309-5065
or e-mail to ensure adequate
availability of seminar handouts.
Till Garden Beds: Unlike our gardening friends above
the Mason-Dixon Line, our soils don’t freeze solid so
we can work the garden soil and prepare beds for next
spring’s planting activities. When working garden soil,
whether for planting flowers and shrubs or a vegetable
garden, never till or work the soil when it is wet, especially
soil with high clay content. Tilling wet soil tends
to degrade soil structure, forming large clods that may
take a long time to break down. Soil works up best
when it is slightly moist, yet crumbles readily after being
hand-pressed into a ball.
POINSETTIAS: Christmas poinsettias are widely
available now. Keep the potting soil evenly moist, never
let the soil dry out or become soggy for long periods.
Poinsettias are often purchased with decorative foil
wraps that do not allow water drainage. Be sure to take
your poinsettia out of these types of decorative pots
before watering. Water your poinsettia whenever the
surface of the soil appears dry and the plant feels light
when you lift it.
The best way to water a poinsettia is to place it in a
sink and add water until it begins to drip out of the bottom
of the pot. Keep the plant in the sink until all excess
water has drained out of the pot and then place it back
into its ornamental container.
If your poinsettia is sitting in a container with a saucer
underneath, pour out any extra water the saucer captures
after watering.
PRUNING: Don’t be in a hurry to prune woody plants.
Very late December through early February is usually
the best time to perform most winter pruning.
Dr. William M. Johnson is a horticulturist with the
Galveston County Office of Texas A&M AgriLife
Extension Service. Visit his Web site at aggie-horticulture.

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