December in the Garden

Well, we have the end of the year in sight, where December hosts the darkest month and the shortest day of the year.


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. I know they will look unsightly, but this really is the best course to take.

You should still be gathering up fallen leaves from around the bases of rose bushes which may have suffered from blackspot or rust this year. This helps to reduce the chance of infection next year. It’s best to burn these leaves to help eradicate further infection next year.

If the leaves on your Dahlias have been blackened by frost, that’s the time to lift and store the tubers. Keep them in a dry temperate place until next years planting schedule comes around once again.

If you have not done so at this time, get mulching underway in your borders. If you are not using your own home produced composted manure, there are deals to be had in the garden centres and DIY stores. If you’re concerned about the problem of weight and transporting the stuff home, most places these days will deliver to your home. Always ask if you are not sure. Its best to use rotted stable manure or Ericaceous if your border has a lot of for example, Hydrangeas, Azaleas or Rhododendrons. 

This year has not been the best year over recent years, what with the increased rainfalls and accompanying windy days. And lets not forget how hot those sunny summer days were too when you didn’t really have to worry about the lawn that resembled pieces of toast.

But all is not lost because it’s at this time of year that some of the most important work in the garden is carried out in preparation for next years growing season. So let’s crack on with some of the more common jobs that could be waiting for you in your garden.

You should have started to prune your Wisteria back by now, cutting back summer side-shoots to 2 or 3 buds as with the climbing roses. Cut away that diseased or damaged growth and tie in any new shoots to their supports. With older flowered side shoots, prune back by two thirds of their length.

Also prune now, Japanese Maples or Acers as they are commonly known as needed.  They will bleed sap if pruning is done any much later.

 Away from the flowerbeds, let’s now move in to the vegetable plot that some of you have. 

Before the ground becomes really frozen, lift the last of your leeks and parsnips. Now is also the time to lift and divide established clumps of Rhubarb. You should look to take sections from the outside of the root.

Remove yellowing leaves from your winter brassicas as they are no use to the plant and may harbour pests and diseases. Cover your winter brassicas with netting to protect them from pigeons. If do not, they will decimate your crop.

Dead asparagus foliage and the top growth of Jerusalem artichokes should be cut down by now. If you are planning to grow beans next season, you may want to consider digging a trench where you’ll grow them, filling it with kitchen waste that is compostable. Once covered this will rot away and improve the growing conditions for the beans. If you have any remaining celery plants left in the soil, protect them by covering with them straw or fleece.

You may want to consider getting your Onion seeds into trays which can later transplanted to the outdoors in mid to late January.

Vacant areas in the vegetable plot can be dug ready for sowing and planting in spring.

Fruit trees. Now is the perfect time to prune fruit trees to maintain an open, balanced structure and encourage quality fruit production for next year. 

Another job for your fruit trees is the application of grease or glue bands. This will prevent wingless female moths from climbing up the trees and laying their eggs in the branches.

Your blackberry, gooseberry and raspberry canes should be cut back by now. If you’re looking to add for instance new or additional raspberry canes, now is the time to plant them while they are still dormant. Mulching around the base of your canes will be beneficial when you see just how much more fruit will be harvested. At this time, also check the supports for your canes. Are they in good order? Do they need replacing? If you have a fruit cage, check the state of the netting. It may need repairing or replacing.

Other jobs in the garden may include the repair of walls, and footpaths, made easier this time of year through the dying back of foliage. Get rid of any moss or slimy patches on patios or paths. A pressure washer is the best and quickest method. If you haven’t got one, try scrubbing with a decent yard broom.

With the spells of bright warm sunshine during some of the days, you will likely find that your lawn is still growing. So don’t be afraid to give it a haircut at this time of year. Just remember to raise the blade. Keep your lawn clear of fallen leaves and if you find that your lawn is sodden in places, aerate it to improve drainage. 

Many of you will have to think about maintaining your garden tools  and mower . Cleaning, sharpening and oiling your tools along with servicing your mower and storing them properly at this time of year, is worthwhile as it will help to make sure they work well and last for years to come.

If you are over wintering precious plants in your green house, make sure the heater is in full working order. Many gardeners also use bubble wrap to add insulation value and protection. Don’t be afraid to ventilate your green house on those slightly warmer days that we have been experiencing to reduce humidity and the risk of disease.

Have you an outside water tap, have you insulated it yet? Using polystyrene and bubble wrap makes for the perfect DIY solution. Or maybe you favour a tailor made tap insulator from the stores. Either way, don’t neglect this or you may find yourself with a costly plumbers bill.

Lets not also forget our feathered friends out there too. This time of year, their natural food supply will be dwindling as the temperatures fall. So keep the bird table well stocked and also don’t forget to replenish any water that you may leave out. There are times when you may have to clean and wash out bird feeders and wash down bird tables. I take some mealworms out with me. You’ll be surprised how birds, especially the Robins will remember you and follow you around. Don’t you love it when they come right up to you and chatter away.

If you are planning to have a bonfire, please check inside the pile for any wildlife that may have decided to take up residence. There was one time that I found a family of Slow Worms in a compost heap that was about to be used. Things turn up when you least expect it.

Talking about heat, there is a tendency to maybe over heat the home at this time of year, so take care to look after any indoor pot plants you may have. If you are going to have a natural Xmas tree, they too need regular watering to help keep the needle drop to a minimum. 

After all of your jobs have been done, sit down and plan your next gardening campaign. Maybe hint to someone close that you need some new gardening gloves or hat or some new gardening tools or how about a nice shrub to replace one that was lost during the extreme weather. Maybe also think about how and what you are going to do in your garden next year. Ordering your seed catalogues or even going online and recalling what worked well is the mark of a good gardener. Planning next year now even at the coming festive period will ensure that you will have a garden that others will envy and desire themselves. 

Having a great looking and a great smelling garden is something Father Christmas can’t do for you. But I do hope he brings you something useful that will aid your cause in the great outdoors where so many of us spend our time tending our garden and also earning a living. I have enjoyed writing this for you. I hope you found this section helpful and useful. I look forward to bringing you this gardening section again next year. Until then, have a very merry Christmas and a happy new year.