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December in the Garden

Posted in All Gardening Advice, December, on 9th November 2012

There's lots to harvest, but very little to plant out or sow, giving you plenty of time to focus on spending time with family and friends over the festive weeks.

Tidy and Mend

  • Continue collecting leaves from borders, paths and lawns. Keep them in wire cages or leaf mould bags to rot down and produce useful leaf mould.
  • Clean paths to prevent then becoming slippery and repair sheds, fences and trellises.
  • Repair lawns if weather conditions allow.
  • Carry out winter digging incorporating organic matter so that the action of frost can breakdown the soil before spring making preparing seedbeds easier in the spring.
  • Feed birds in colder weather.

Shrubs and Trees

  • If we have a ‘white christmas’ remember to shake snow off trees and shrubs after enjoying the sight of them. The weight of snow can damage branches and stems. Don’t worry about snow on low plants, it actually protects them against hard frosts acting as a blanket over them.
  • Check newly planted trees and shrubs to see if they have been loosened by winds or lifted by frost. If this happens, gaps form around the roots causing them to dry out. If you see crack around the plant, firm in again gently with your feet.
  • Prune ornamental vines. Vines can produce growth of up to 10ft in one season so need to be kept in check. Thin out overcrowded shoots and then prune sideshoots to two buds fron the main stems that are kept as a framework.

Grow Your Own

Flowers

  • Protect plants vulnerable to frosts as the year eneters its coldest phase. Either bring in tender plants if you haven’t already and put a mulch, compost or straw over the top of any in borders.
  • Keep cutting back dead foliage and keep an eye out for weeds if it is mild.
  • Keep an eye on container plants and bulbs, do not allow them to dry out.
  • Check stored summer flowering bulbs and tubers being stored over winter. If any show signs of mould or rot, remove the damaged one or part to prevent it spreading.
  • Bring forced bulbs into a warm room to encourage them in to flower.

Veg and Salad

  • Earth up spring cabbages and other winter brassicas to give them better anchorage in strong winds. Tall growing Brussels are particularly prone to this and may need a strong cane next to them.
  • Remove yellowing leaves regularly as these can fungal diseases. Harvest sprouts from the stem upwards.

Harvesting

Harvesting Food

What you could be picking and eating this time next year, or, if you’re an old hand, what you can pick now:

  • brassicas: kale, red and green cabbages and Brussels sprouts
  • roots: parsnips, last carrots, beetroot, celeriac (under straw), Jerusalem artichokes and salsify
  • salad: all hardy salad leaves eg. rocket, winter purslane, mustards and Florence fennel (under straw)
  • edible flowers: violas
  • leafy greens: chard (may need a cloche) and perpetual spinach
  • squash: stored pumpkins and squash
  • stems: leeks
  • herbs: hardy cut-and-come again herbs eg. parsley, par-cel, coriander, chervil and evergreens eg. rosemary, sage, bay and winter savory

Edible crops from the store

  • roots: beetroot, carrots, turnips and Maincrop potatoes
  • fruit and nuts: long-storing apples (eg. Braeburn), pears, quinces, walnuts, plus squash

Harvesting Flowers

Lovely things to pick and arrange from your garden in December:

  • seed heads, berries and hips: make a wreath using anything you can forage from the garden eg. spindle, rose hips, Chinese lanterns, agapanthus and hydrangeas
  • bulbs: the first of your indoor bulbs (eg. Paperwhite narcissi, hyacinths and amaryllis) start to flower
  • tender perennials: chrysanthemums and alstroemerias from under cover.