December Gardening In Michigan

By Mary Ellen Ellis | December 2, 2022
Image by Evelien Doosje
by Mary Ellen Ellis
December 2, 2022

Where I live in southeast Michigan, my garden is firmly situated in zone 6. This means only evergreens thrive in winter. Everything else either dies or goes dormant. Gardening in December is a quiet time here, but I still find a few things to do.

Terrarium Gardens

I try to keep my terrarium gardens going all year, but they get the most attention in winter. This year I picked out some pretty African violets, a peperomia, a snake plant, and a spider plant to freshen up my largest terrarium.

Over the years, I have found that it’s nearly impossible to keep a terrarium in good health indefinitely. However, some maintenance and care can keep it going longer. Throughout winter, I focus on these things:

  • Finding the right amount of light. Terrarium plants are tropical. They prefer indirect light. Finding the balance between too much and not enough is key.
  • Finding the moisture balance. This is another tricky balance. I have to watch the terrarium and crack it open a little to air it out or to add more water. Excessive moisture can rot plants.
  • Removing failed plants. Fungus can take hold quickly in a terrarium, so I keep an eye on it and remove dying plants quickly.
  • My houseplants also get some extra care in December—trimming back, fertilizing, misting—but most of my focus goes to the terrarium.

Moving Snow

Whether or not we get a lot of December snow here depends on the year. Sometimes it starts early, and other years it waits for the New Year. If there is snow in December, shoveling is a regular chore.

I shovel the driveway, rather than blow the snow because I enjoy the exercise. I also use that snow to protect perennials. As long as it’s not salty from the road, snow acts like a blanket for my peonies, bleeding heart, hostas, and more.

Enjoying Winter Veggies

Every year, I enjoy the fruits of the labors of my local farmers. As a member of a local CSA, community supported agriculture, I get fresh vegetables from the end of May through mid-December.

At this late time in the season, I see cold weather produce and storage vegetables. The farmers use plastic coverings to prolong the life of lettuces, radishes, and greens. They also give us winter squashes and pumpkins, potatoes, parsnips, turnips, and other roots.

My favorites in December are the squashes. There’s nothing like a warm, hearty dinner of butternut, acorn, spaghetti, and black futsu squashes in December. I like to save the seeds too, for roasting.

While caring for winter plants and baking and roasting in the kitchen, I also use December’s down time to plan for next year. This is the best time to dream of what comes next.

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