December’s Jobs in the Garden – It’s Getting Colder

There’s always something to be doing in the garden and December’s no different from any other month.

Days are shorter, generally more wet and windy while there’s always a risk of snow.

General jobs to do in the garden:

  • Greenhouses & garden structures – check for loose panels, roofs, posts and fences and firm up, insulate and repair where necessary.
  • Insulate outdoor taps or turn them off at the mains. Also pack away hoses that are not required.
  • Drain manmade fountains & ponds and remove pumps before covering.
  • Remove fallen leaves from lawns, pond and borders. Don’t forget to clean gutters.
  • Put potted pots in the green house or ensure they are protected from the frost, grouping them together will help give more protection. Raise them off the ground to protect from water logging.
  • Clean and replenish birdbaths and feeders. Keep an eye on ice in baths.
  • Empty water butts, or at least clean them out – they will replenish with fresh rainwater.
  • Wash down all of your garden tools and give them a wipe of linseed oil on the wooden areas to protect them.
  • Keep mice away from stored produce.

Photo by Crystal Jo on Unsplash

Jobs to do in the flower garden:

  • Start to winter-prune your Wisteria, cutting back summer side-shoots to 2 or 3 buds.
  • Prune climbing roses now; cutting away diseased or damaged growth and tying in any new shoots to their support. Prune older flowered side shoots back by two thirds of their length.
  • Prune acers, birches and vines before Christmas, as they will bleed sap if pruning is done any later.
  • Leave the faded flower heads on your hydrangeas until the spring, as they will provide frost protection to the swelling buds further down the stems.
  • Check climbers are securely attached with plant ties to their supports.
  • Take hardwood cuttings from suitable trees and shrubs. Check hardwood cuttings taken last year. They may need planting out or potting on.
  • If you still haven’t planted your tulip bulbs there is still time, provided the ground isn’t frozen.

Photo by Jez Timms on Unsplash

Jobs to do in the vegetable garden:

  • Remove any plant debris to help prevent the spread of disease.
  • Lift the last leeks and parsnips before the soil becomes frozen.
  • Continue to harvest Parsnips, Celery, Brussel sprouts, Turnips and Swedes. If required cover with fleece in freezing conditions.
  • Try digging a trench where you will be growing your beans next year – fill it with compostable kitchen waste (not cooked food) and cover with soil again. This will rot down and improve the growing conditions for your beans.
  • If you’re looking for something to grow at this time of year try mushroom growing kits for a more unusual addition to the garden.
  • Cover heavy clay soil with polythene to keep it drier and allow winter digging.
  • Maintain or install heavy-duty paths for accessing vegetables.

Jobs to do in the fruit garden:

  • Prune open-grown apples and pears (but not those trained against walls) – Apple and pear trees trained as free-standing bushes are best pruned every winter to ensure a good cycle of fruiting wood. Trees that are not pruned become less productive and congested with old branches. The aim is to create an open goblet shape with a framework of four to five main branches.
  • Protect wall trained peaches and nectarines from wet winter weather which spreads the peach leaf curl fungus. Construct a screen of clear polythene positioned over the plant but not touching it.

In the greenhouse:

  • If you have not already done so, clean out the greenhouse thoroughly. Wash the glass, the floor and the staging with horticultural disinfectant to kill any overwintering pests and diseases.
  • Brush heavy snow off the tops of greenhouses and cold frames to prevent the glass being damaged.
  • Ventilate the greenhouse on warmer days to reduce the risk of disease.
  • Plant bulbs in large pots of compost ready to fill any gaps in spring borders.
  • Water plants sparingly to maintain as dry an atmosphere as possible.
  • Keep an eye out for aphids, remove them by hand or use a pesticide.
  • Protect your Poinsettias from cold draughts and allow them to dry out slightly between watering’s to make them last for the whole Christmas period and well into January.

Photo by Josie Weiss on Unsplash

What to do with the lawn:

  • If it’s mild continue to use the lawn mower but raise the blades higher.
  • Keep clearing leaves off the lawn to let the light in and prevent dead patches appearing.
  • Spike lawns with a garden fork to improve drainage and aeration.
  • Clean & dry the mower before storing it in the dry – it’s a good time to get the blades sharpened and the mower serviced.
  • Avoid walking on the lawn if there is a heavy frost or snow, as this will damage the grass.