December’s in-the-yard tasks are devoted to decorating the house, shrubs and trees with holiday lights and decorations. Before decorating your trees and shrubs with lights, take a moment to evaluate your yard so that it looks its best both in daytime and at night. Rake the leaves and pine needles off the lawn, and shred them with your lawnmower. Put the shreddings under your shrubs, as they make great (and free!) mulch. These shreddings not only conserve soil moisture, they also protect the roots of the shrubs from your footsteps as you string your holiday lights on them. Next, take a moment to spray both trees and shrubs with dormant oil. It is the single most effective way of reducing insect pest populations, by smothering the eggs that they have laid.

After you’ve strung your lights, step back and see how you can make your holiday decorations look finished. Holiday lights and decorations look marvelous at night, but they tend to look a bit dull in broad daylight. On the other hand, colorful annuals look best in daylight. Those Vincas, Begonias, Impatiens and Torenia that you planted in spring are looking sad by now. So finish off your decorations with cool season annuals. In partially shaded areas, try a combination of white Cyclamen, red Dianthus, and blue Lobelia. In sunny areas try a combination of Dusty Miller, Gerbera Daisies, and Violas.