December - Before the weather gets too cold make some time to tidy the garden – wash down cloches, insulate outside taps, deadhead pansies and cut down dahlias.
- Finish planting out tulip bulbs
- Plant our spring bedding, such as wallflowers
- Plant lily of the valley bulbs
- Mover pots of agapanthus and tender bulbs to a sheltered spot
- Deadhead pansies and violas regularly
- Net holly berries so birds don’t eat your Christmas display
- Cut down dahlias and cover tubers with thick mulch
- Fill empty containers with winter heathers and ivy
- Buy hedging for winter planting
- Fork over vacant areas in the border
- Take hardwood cuttings
Tip:Keep frost at bay
The best way to protect plant roots from frost is to cover the soil with a thick layer of compost. Even hardy plants benefit from the protection. Now borders are clear of plants, it’s easier to spread on mulch. You could use home-made compost or buy it. Spread it on thickly and worms will get to work right away, pulling the organic matter deep down to improve your soil.
In the greenhouse
- Clear out old crops and grow bags
- Water sparingly and aim to keep the atmosphere as dry as possible
- Pick off faded or diseased leaves from pelargoniums and other plants you’re over wintering
- Continue ventilating the greenhouse on warm days
- Cyclamen should be starting to sprout new leaves, so water more regularly
- Keep potted herbs on the staging to continue cropping over winter
- Move potted bulbs into the greenhouse to develop before bringing them into the house
- Check that greenhouse heaters are working
Tip: Hot house?
A good investment for the greenhouse is a max-min thermometer that records extremes each day. Check and re-set regularly to monitor what’s happening. If you do heat your greenhouse do check the thermometer each morning to ensure you are not overheating at night and wasting fuel.
Fruit and vegetables
- Dig over vacant areas of ground
- Lift and divided congested clumps of rhubarb
- Clear away old crops and add them to the compost heap
- Stock up on rotted farmyard manure or other composted waste
- Plant new fruit trees and bushes
- Prune side shoots on gooseberries back to about 5cm (2in).
- Use cloches or fleece to protect winter peas, beans and salads from frosts
- Prune apple and pear trees
Tip: Prepare for parsnips
It’s rewarding having a selection of fresh vegetables to harvest through the winter. Several root crops can be dug up now – parsnips last for months in the sail, getting sweeter once hit by frost. Swedes stand up well to cooler conditions and are great mashed with carrot or in winter stews. Both need a long growing season, so if you’d like crops next winter, then plan to sow in March or early April.
Around the garden
- Cut down any marginal plants around the pond to tidy it up
- Wrap outside taps with insulating material to prevent them from freezing
- If your lawn is looking untidy, mow it on a dry day, ensuring that the mower blades are on a high setting
- Don’t set light to piles of rubbish without first checking that animals haven’t taken residence there
- Order loads of farmyard manure or mushroom compost to dig in over winter
- Prevent ponds from freezing by using a pond heater
Tip: Clean Cloches
The glass of cold frames and cloches accumulate a surprising amount of grime and dirt both inside and out; reducing the amount of light reaching the plants. Take the opportunity to wash frames and cloches with warm soapy water, then rinsing with clean water. Greenhouse glazing may also need cleaning.