December

“We might think we are nurturing our garden but of course it’s our gardening that is really nurturing us.” Jenny Uglow

Grow Your Own

It is still a good time to plant the bare-root fruit bushes and canes such as, pears, plums, cherries, currants, gooseberries and raspberries that you can buy from specialist fruit nurseries. If the soil is very wet or cold then best to delay, but whenever you do it, don’t forget to put rabbit guards in place if there is any possibility that these plant munchers could be in the area! Established apples and pears will also benefit from pruning now.

pots and patios december

Patios & Pots

Harsh weather can damage tender petals so it’s a good idea to regularly check winter containers and use sharp scissors or secateurs to remove faded blooms (deadheading) and also anything that has been hit by frost, ice or icy winds. This will keep the containers looking good and help reduce the risk of dieback. In the wetter months plants in containers are often at risk from not only the cold but also excessive wet – wrapping the sides (not the bases) of pots in bubble-wrap, hessian or similar will keep the roots snug, but make sure that drainage holes are kept clear and consider standing pots on ‘pot feet’.

Houseplants

Many houseplants such as cyclamen Christmas cacti, mini azaleas, poinsettia get given as gifts at this time of year, and they do make great presents, but take the time to check the conditions they need and they will last much, much longer! Basic cultural advice should be on the label. Check all houseplants for leaves or flowers which have faded and remove them completely and promptly.

poinsettia
bedding december

Beds & Borders

The worst of the winter weather may still lie ahead, so make sure any plants that are not fully hardy are given the protection they need. Mounding dry bark chippings over the crowns or several layers of horticultural fleece may be enough in milder areas. The clue as to which need this treatment should be on the plant’s label, but if you have anything really recently planted in beds and borders and the leaves feel very soft, in this first year I’d advise a bit of protection anyway! Its not too late to add some more winter-interest plants too, including winter-flowering heathers, hellebores, violas and pansies.

Trees, Shrubs and Climbers

Continue planting bare-root trees and shrubs unless the soil is too wet or frozen and make sure that anything new or old which needs to be secured to a stake, trellis or other support has it’s ties checked and any which are damaged or too tight are replaced before the weather gets any windier.

trees december
december lawn

Lawns, Ponds & Water Features

In really cold areas it may be worth removing pumps from water features and ponds for the winter and also checking that ponds do not freeze over completely – the age-old trick of floating a football on the surface really helps, but if necessary, use a saucepan of hot water rested on the ice to melt a hole and allow toxic gasses to escape. Do this and pond wildlife should remain unharmed. Frost or snow-covered grass is easily damaged by human feet, so if you need an excuse, try to avoid walking on your lawn.

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