Jobs for the garden in December

As the year draws to a close you can afford to take a bit of time off from labouring in the garden, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to do!  Here are a few of the more important tasks you should be carrying out this month:

Finish clearing leaves and debris, particularly from borders and rock gardens where they can smother small plants.  This will also help to reduce slugs and snails who like to hide in amongst them. Burn any diseased plant material you find while clearing up.

If the ground is not too waterlogged or frozen, dig new planting areas, using boards to stand on to avoid compacting the soil.  Add bulky organic matter such as garden compost or well-rotten farmyard manure.

Well-rotted manure

Winter is also an ideal time to check soil pH and nutrient levels and put right any deficiencies.

While the evenings are dark and you’re likely to be at home more, think about where you could benefit from additional garden lighting, either from a safety point of view, or just to be able to enjoy the garden from inside the house.

TREES & HEDGES
When the leaves have fallen you can start to prune deciduous trees and some shrubs (leave the pruning of more tender shrubs until spring).

Continue planting bare-root trees and hedges when the weather allows.

Prune overgrown deciduous hedges (such as Hornbeam and Beech).

SHRUBS & CLIMBERS

Rose by Firgrove Photographic
Plant bare root roses (shrubs and climbers) now – but not in frosty conditions.

LAWN CARE
Carry out lawn repairs if conditions permit, rake up fallen leaves. However avoid walking on the lawn when it is frosty or waterlogged.

POND CARE
Remove netting from ponds and prevent your pond from freezing over by floating a rubber ball on the pond which you can remove to leave a hole for oxygen for fish, frogs and other pond-life.

frozen pond

Alternatively stand a saucepan of hot water on the frozen surface until it melts a hole in the ice.

PESTS & DISEASES
Keep an eye on overwintering rhizomes and tubers (of plants such as Dahlias and Cannas) for signs of rot.

This is a good time to fork over vacant ground as it exposes pests to hungry birds.

Picture credits:  Janet Bligh & Firgrove Photographic

Jobs for the productive garden in December

Life’s getting a bit easier now that winter is here.  Not too much hard graft to do and it’s more about clearing up and planning for next year.

Kitchen Garden

grape vine
Prune ornamental and edible grape vines, and prune soft and tree fruits including currants, gooseberries, apples and pears (don’t be tempted to prune plum or cherry trees now – leave them until summer).  Save pruned stems from apple and pear trees to use for plant supports for perennials during the spring and summer.

If you have bare-rooted fruit trees and bushes to plant, get them in as soon as possible. If the ground is frozen over or too wet, heel them in (plant temporarily) until conditions improve.

Harvesting leeks

Harvest celery, beetroot, turnips, sprouts, kale, parsnips, leeks and carrots.  Earth up tall Brussels sprout stems to support them against winter winds.

Force rhubarb to produce a tender early crop – insulate the crown with straw and then cover with a forcing pot or upturned dustbin.

Make sure that you store fruit and vegetables in a cool, airy, frost free place: check regularly and discard any that show signs of rot.

Order plants of early crops such as seed potatoes, summer bulbs, onions sets, cabbages, cauliflowers and lettuces from specialists for early spring delivery.  It is worth ordering early as suppliers will run out of the most popular lines.

Cutting garden
For fragrant flowers indoors, pick stems of Chimonanthus praecox (wintersweet), Lonicera fragrantissima (winter honeysuckle), Sarcococca (Christmas Box) and Viburnum.  Collect winter foliage, colourful stems and berries for Christmas decorations.

Rose hips

Roses grown for cutting and their hips should be planted now as the bare-root season is in full swing.

Pinch out the tips of autumn sown sweet pea seedlings once they have two pairs of leaves.

If you planted scented Narcissi and Hyacinth bulbs in pots last month, bring them in from the greenhouse now so that they flower in time for Christmas.

Picture credits:  Janet Bligh

Jobs for the garden in November

At this time of year gardening is largely about clearing up and protecting your garden for the winter, but November also marks the start of the tree and hedge planting season.  Here’s a quick rundown on what you could be doing this month:

Prepare for winter by checking anything that is at risk of cold, wind or water loggingRaise pots on bricks or feet so they can drain freely.  Insulate terracotta, glazed and stoneware pots.

Lag outdoor taps and insulate glasshouses.  Move worm bins to a frost-free place or insulate them.  Put away or protect garden furniture – in particular wooden furniture should not be left in contact with the soil, as this can lead to rotting.

Remove dead leaves from the tops of plants and netting on a regular basis.  If you have snow, make sure to remove it before any damage is done to plants or structures such as fruit cages.

Robin in Garden by Firgrove Photographic

Keep a regular supply of food & water for the birds.

TREES, HEDGES & ROSES
Plant bare-rooted trees, shrubs, roses and hedging plants.  Make sure you stake any large plants, including root-ball hedging.  If you’d like more information before you start, take a look at my blogs on planting hedging and choosing the right trees for your garden.

SHRUBS & CLIMBERS
Now is a good time to move plants that you have been meaning to shift.  Large deciduous shrubs are easier to move than you think if you have the manpower.  Leave evergreens until the spring.

PERENNIALS

Dahlia by Firgrove Photographic

If you don’t want to risk your Dahlias by leaving them in the ground over winter, dig up tubers after the first frost (when the foliage has blackened), dry them and store them either wrapped in newspaper or in dry compost. Don’t forget to label them!

Take root cuttings from perennials with thick fleshy roots (such as Echinops and Oriental poppies).

Agapanthus

Apply a layer of compost mulch to borderline hardy plants such as Agapanthus, Salvia patens and Melianthus Major to protect them over winter.

BULBS
Plant Tulip and Hyacinth bulbs, and finish planting any other spring bulbs providing the ground is not water logged or frozen.

LAWN CARE
Continue to cut the grass if it continues to grow but raise the blades.  Stay off the grass if you can.

POND CARE
Clean and store submersible pumps.

PESTS & DISEASES
Check for pests and diseases before bringing outdoor plants in the glasshouse

Picture credits:  Janet Bligh & Firgrove Photographic

Jobs for the productive garden in November

With winter approaching, there isn’t a great deal to do in the kitchen garden at this time of year, but here are a few ideas to keep you busy.

Start winter pruning apple and pear trees, and fix grease bands to fruit trees to protect them against winter moth.  If you are planting new trees this winter, they should be available by now so it’s a good time to make a start.

Loganberries

You can also begin planting bare-root raspberry canes and currant bushes.

Plant garlic sets and shallots and sow broad beans.
On the window sill grow herbs and salad leaves.

Rhubarb should be divided every 5 years to keep the plants strong and productive – and this can be done any time between now and spring, as long as the ground isn’t frozen.

Harvest leeks and Brussels sprouts.  If you haven’t used carrots and parsnips either cover them with straw or dig them up by the middle of the month and store in the fridge.  Protect cauliflower heads from frost by pegging or tying theirs leaves over them.

Tulips by Firgrove Photographic

This is now the best time to plant Tulip and Hyacinth bulbs, and if like me, you haven’t quite finished planting your other spring bulbs (!), crack on with that this month – providing the ground is not water logged or frozen.

You can either risk leaving your Dahlias in the ground over winter (protecting them with a thick compost mulch), or if your soil is heavy and wet and they are likely to rot, cut them down and dig them up (once the frost has blackened the foliage), and store the dried off tubers until you can re-plant them in late spring.

Photos:  Janet Bligh & Firgrove Photographic