''Life begins the day you start a garden.'' – Chinese proverb

Grow Your Own

What better way to wear off any seasonal excess than by some soil preparation to ensure your summer veg do really well? As long as the soil isn’t too wet or frozen solid, clear any weeds or debris and gently fork over compacted soil. Feeding fruit trees, bushes and canes now, using a potash-rich fertilizer or ‘sulphate of potash’ will help to encourage good flowering and fruiting and some general feed or a good mulch with well-rotted manure will also help to keep the plants growing well. Don’t forget to buy some seed potatoes and get them sprouting, ready for planting in a few months and check you have veg seeds too.

Patios & Pots

Keep on regularly deadheading plants in patio pots and, if extreme weather is forecast even consider giving the plants a little extra protection with some horticultural fleece – the plants may be perfectly hardy, and you don’t want to let them get too soft and over-protected, but a layer of fleece on a very harsh night will help to keep the flowers from being damaged. Fleece works well as it allows plenty of light, air and rain to reach the plants so they can benefit from protection but won’t become soggy.


Treat yourself to some gorgeous houseplants - they make the best sort of ornament I know and need not be hard to look after, just check that you get the right plant for the right place, your local nursery or garden centre will be able to advise. Although most still grow noticeably at this time of year, they grow more slowly and some may be virtually dormant, so take care not to over-water then, and hold back on feeding for now.

Beds & Borders

Have a bit of a border tidy-up fallen leaves which have accumulated and become soggy around the crowns of plants and cut back badly damaged stems too. It’s a bit of a balancing act – you need to remove things like this which might cause the plants to rot, but you also need to leave sufficient old stems and foliage in place to protect the crowns from the coldest temperatures! Order or buy a good selection of seeds for sowing for summer colour this year, it’s definitely still worth sowing sweetpeas and if you have a heated propagator you could even sow some of your own classic summer bedding plants such as pelargoniums, snapdragons and gazanias.

Trees, Shrubs and Climbers

Evergreens, including conifers, can easily suffer from drought in the winter months if conditions are dry and especially if they are growing in containers, so keep an eye on them and give them an occasional watering if necessary. There’s still time to make the most of bare-root plants, especially for hedging as, unless the soil is very wet or frozen-solid, they’ll do well when planted now.

december lawn

Lawns, Ponds & Water Features

Keep checking that your pond isn’t freezing over and take extra care with children who may assume a frozen surface is more solid than it is! Use a garden fork, driven into the lawn to a depth of at least 10cm if possible, at regular intervals over the compacted area, to create temporary drainage channels. Try to avoid standing on the grass when you do this (as this may cause more compaction!), but if you need to, stand on a plank of wood or board. If there has been a lot of rain and your lawn has shown signs of compaction and puddling, this may not be the classic time of year to aerate it, but I’d have a go.

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