As we wrap up the year, it’s time to get things done in the garden before our winter hibernation begins.

Although it may seem counterintuitive, winter is a great time to plant trees and shrubs.

Container-grown trees and shrubs will be less susceptible to transplant shock, and their roots will continue to grow, becoming well-established by spring.

However, avoid planting cold-sensitive plants such as citrus, figs and palms as they are susceptible to freeze damage.

You can also trim trees and shrubs, even deciduous trees. With fewer leaves, the tree structure will be easier to see when selecting limbs to remove.

It's also time to prep your tropical and cold-sensitive potted plants. As the temperatures drop, you will need to bring them inside, put them in the garage or under the carport, or move them to a protected corner of your patio.

If you move plants indoors, they won't need to be watered but once a week or when they begin to wilt slightly. This helps reduce chances of fungal disease and insect damage. Fungus gnats love rotting roots that have succumbed to saturated potting soils growing fungus, so let the soil dry out between waterings.

For tropical plants in the landscape, protect the roots and rhizomes by spreading a 4- to 6-inch layer of mulch around the base of the plant. You can prune freeze-damaged limbs and foliage on plants such as gingers and philodendrons if you want to keep a neat look. Heavily mulch cold-sensitive plants, and cover them in extended periods of below-freezing weather.

Cover young, tender citrus trees and use heat lamps during extended freezes of 28 degrees or lower for more than four hours, according to retired LSU Agricultural Center horticulturist Charlie Johnson.

Add cover to the trees during the day before temperatures drop. This helps trap radiant heat from the soil. You can use sheets or protective materials from a nursery. If you use plastic or a tarpaulin, remove it during the day to protect plants from sunburn. Sheets and cloths can be left on for a few days without any damage to the trees. But they will prevent photosynthesis, so they should not be left for extended periods.

In landscape beds, apply mulch at a 2-inch depth to keep weeds in check, and to help trap moisture and heat around the root zone. Pine straw, leaves and pine bark are all excellent mulches. You can also trim freeze-damaged or dormant perennials in winter to keep a clean look for your landscape.

Rake and keep leaves to use for mulch or compost them to provide organic matter for landscape and vegetable beds in the future. Keep fallen leaves away from street drains to prevent clogging.

When it comes to your vegetable garden, bunching green onions and shallots should be harvested by digging up the clumps. You can replant a smaller clump to continue producing. You can also plant beets, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, celery, cabbage, leeks, lettuce, radishes, shallots, spinach, Swiss chard and turnips.

As for your lawn, take a break. You can still tackle those annoying weeds before new springtime growth. Some options for weed control are Scythe, an organic option with the active ingredient pelargonic acid and related fatty acids. Alternatively, chemical control can be made with liquid atrazine in combination with 2, 4-D, mecoprop, dicamba and carfentrazone for the best results. Follow product label for rates, and use a spreader sticker.

This is also an opportune time to sharpen mower blades and take care of maintenance on equipment before winter storage.


Email questions to gardennews@agcenter.lsu.edu.