December: What to Plant in Your Garden Right Now in Tennessee

December (and really the next couple of months) are a down time in Tennessee. Winter is here and the hot days of summer and warm days of fall have faded.

With cooler temps, there’s not much to do outdoors, but you can prep for the upcoming season.

Things to Plant or Start During December in Tennessee

Cool-Season Vegetables

Plant cold-hardy vegetables that can withstand winter temperatures. Use row covers or cloches to protect these plants from extreme cold.

Consider planting:

  • Lettuce and Spinach: You can still plant cold-hardy leafy greens like lettuce and spinach. Consider using row covers to protect them from frost.
  • Kale: Kale is a very hardy leafy green that can thrive in Tennessee’s winter climate.
  • Carrots: Carrots can be sown in November for a winter or early spring harvest.
  • Beets: Beets can also be planted in December for a late winter or early spring harvest.

Garlic: December is a suitable time to plant garlic. They will establish roots during the winter and be ready for a robust growth in the spring.

Onions: Similar to garlic, onions are relatively cold-hardy and can survive the winter in Tennessee. They will establish roots during the winter and be ready for growth in the spring.

Flowering Bulbs: Plant any remaining spring-flowering bulbs, such as tulips and daffodils. Make sure to follow the recommended planting depths for each type.

Indoor Seeds: If you have the space and the means, consider starting seeds indoors for warm-season crops. This will give you a head start for the spring growing season.

Cover Crops: Sow cover crops like winter rye or crimson clover to protect and enrich the soil during the winter. These cover crops help prevent erosion and add nutrients when turned under in the spring.

Things to Do in the Winter Months in Your Garden

While there’s not much to plant and tend to, there is plenty to do to make the upcoming spring season a lot easier and more prosperous.


  • Prune dormant trees and shrubs while they are not actively growing. Focus on removing dead or diseased branches, and be cautious with fruit trees to avoid cold damage to fresh pruning cuts.

Garden Cleanup:

  • Remove any remaining plant debris, weeds, and other materials from the garden beds. A clean garden helps reduce the risk of pests and diseases.

Soil Amendment:

  • If you haven’t conducted a soil test recently, consider doing so. This will provide valuable information about the nutrient levels in your soil, helping you plan amendments for the upcoming growing season.

Bird Feeders:

  • Set up bird feeders to attract and support wintering bird populations. Birds can contribute to pest control and add a lively element to your winter garden.

Remember to check your local frost dates and specific climate conditions for your region in Tennessee, as they can vary, and some regions may experience milder winters than others. Additionally, be prepared to protect your plants from frost with row covers or cold frames as necessary.

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