It may seem that all is cold and quiet in the garden in December, but the well-planted garden should have some interest all year round. And, even as we approach the shortest day, there are December gardening jobs to be getting on with to keep your garden in tip-top condition.
If you still have spring bulbs and shrubs that you want to plant in your garden it's not too late to do so. Just pick a time when the ground isn’t too waterlogged or frozen.
If your garden is lacking in colour at this dark time of the year consider adding a splash of brightness with some winter flowering plants such as winter pansies, cyclamen, or hellebores (Christmas Rose). Many shrubs flower at this time of year, too, including winter honeysuckle, winter clematis and Mahonia.
December is also the perfect time to plant bare-root roses and ornamental trees. If you want to enjoy summer fruits next year you can plant bare-root fruit trees and bushes as well as raspberries and blackberries now.
You can still prune trees in December and it’s a good idea to cut back any overgrown hedges and shrubs now, too. Don't leave this until spring as by then there may be birds nesting in them. You can also prune climbing roses now.
You can still plant or move deciduous shrubs in December, too, so if you think your garden is lacking in structure, then now is the time to fix this.
If you want to take hardwood cuttings, then December is the perfect time to do this. It's very easy to do, you simply cut off some vigorous growth and divide into sections of 15-30 cm long. You should cut above a bud at the top and below a bud at the bottom. Dip the base in hormone rooting powder and plant in a pot or trench.
Now is the time to harvest leeks, parsnips, winter cabbage, brussels sprouts and any remaining root crops. Hopefully, you have some parsnips and sprouts that will be just perfect for Christmas dinner.
December is the perfect time to tackle general garden maintenance. It’s a good idea to check around your garden to ensure that everything is ready for the coldest part of the year. You may want to insulate garden taps to prevent freezing. You can use fleece to protect tender plants and wrap terracotta or clay pots in bubble wrap to prevent cracking. If you have pots in an exposed place, try moving them somewhere more sheltered so plant roots don’t freeze. Move anything indoors or into the greenhouse if it won’t survive a cold snap.
A little bit of TLC will protect your garden tools over winter. Clean spades, forks and hoes and rub with a little oil to protect them from rust. You may also want to treat wooden handles, so they don’t rot. Also, have your secateurs, shears and mower blades sharpened ready for spring.
December is a great time to clean out rubbish from the shed and greenhouse. You could also wash pots and trays ready for spring planting. It’s also a good idea to check that your shed is watertight, and the door is well secured. If you have a greenhouse, test any heating equipment to make sure it is working.
One of the most important December gardening jobs is to take care of the birds in your garden. Keep filling the bird feeders and remember to leave out water for our feathered friends. You might want to take care of other visitors in the garden too. A hedgehog house or bee hotel can be a great addition to the garden and will help these gardener’s friends stay cosy over winter.
It's quite likely that the weather has been taking care of most watering at this time of year. However, newly planted trees or shrubs may need some extra in dry spells. You should also keep an eye on pots as they can easily dry out, especially if they are in a sheltered spot or contain large-leaved plants. Don’t forget the greenhouse if you have plants overwintering in there.
When it is too cold and wet to get outside in the garden use the time to plan next year. Get out the gardening books, magazines and seed catalogues and start planning your dream garden for next year
And when the sun does shine, wrap up and get out and enjoy your garden. While the winter garden may not be showy and colourful like the summer garden, there should still be plenty of interest if you look closely. Have a stroll around your garden and enjoy winter plants such as hellebores and cyclamen as well as striking winter shrubs like dogwood and mahonia.
Spending a little time in the garden now will ensure your outdoor space is in good shape for the coming year.
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