DECEMBER GARDENING TIPS

Garden care

Fruit trees, roses and their surrounding soil can now be sprayed with organic winter wash – this kills off many over-wintering pests and diseases.

Try to avoid walking on lawns during frosty and extremely wet weather – this damages the grass, which can take until next spring to recover.

Continue to remove fallen leaves from lawns and borders to stop them blocking out light and moisture.  Add the leaves to a compost heap, or make leaf mould.

Cut back the old foliage of deciduous ornamental grasses, to within a few centimetres of the ground, before new growth begins.

Outdoor plants

December is the ideal time to prune Japanese maples, silver birch and ornamental and fruiting grapevines. Pruning before Christmas prevents plants from bleeding.

Regularly deadhead winter flowering pansies to keep them flowering, during mild weather. Tidy up the plants and remove any yellowing leaves to stop diseases taking hold.

Keep a careful eye on plants growing in containers and patio pots, as they may still require watering throughout the winter months. Only water them on mild, frost-free days.

Continue to plant pot-grown and bare-rooted deciduous hedging plants such as beech, hornbeam and quickthorn.

Plant new container-grown or bare-rooted roses, into well-prepared sites with added compost and rose fertilizer, during mild weather.

Start to winter prune wisterias, cutting back summer side shoots to two or three buds.

Harvest holly with berries for making Christmas garlands and wreaths; stand them in a bucket of water until you’re ready to use them.

Last chance to plant tulip bulbs, these can still be planted into frost-free ground and patio pots for a wonderful display next spring.

Protect your Christmas poinsettias from cold draughts, and allow them to dry out slightly between watering, to make them last well into the New Year.

Add some winter colour and fragrance to your garden by planting shrubs of sarcococca, daphne, winter honeysuckle, viburnums and hamamelis.

Check tender plants that have been protected with fleece, to make sure it’s still in place after any windy weather.

Fruit & vegetables

Harvest Brussels sprouts regularly from the bottom up. Remove any yellowing leaves, check for signs of bird damage, and cover with bird netting if required.

Winter prune apples, pears, gooseberries and currants on days without hard frost.

Lift and divide overgrown clumps of rhubarb to renew the plant’s’ vigour. Sections taken from the outside of the plant are better than those from the centre.

Apply grease bands to the trunks of fruit trees to prevent wingless female winter moths climbing the trunks and laying their eggs in the branches.

Plant raspberries, blackberries and loganberries now whilst the canes are dormant. Prepare the soil well, adding some organic compost and a general purpose fertilizer.

Order next season’s seeds and seed potatoes now – many of the favourite varieties sell out very quickly.

House plants

Feed all flowering houseplants regularly with a liquid plant food. Feed orchids with a proprietary orchid food.

Indoor amaryllis (hippeastrum) are popular winter houseplants. Pot up the bulbs now, using a good multipurpose potting compost, with only the bottom third of the bulbs planted, leaving the remaining two thirds above compost level.

Wildlife and bird care

Regularly fill and clean all bird feeders and bird baths.

Misc. 

If you’re not using your lawn mower, have it serviced now ready for next spring.

Protect non-frost-proof pots by covering them with bubble wrap, hessian or fleece. Raise all patio pots onto feet or bricks to avoid them sitting in water.

Make sure all outside taps and irrigation lines are drained to avoid damage from freezing. Put lagging around taps and standpipes.

Watch out for signs of damage by slugs and snails on newly emerging foliage – liquid slug killers, organic pellets and nematodes are available.