December in the Garden
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 and 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
- Protect plants vulnerable to frosts as the year eneters its coldest phase. Either bring tender plants in if you haven’t already done so and any in the border put a mulch or compost or straw over the top.
- 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.
- Brassicas- 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 Food – What you could be picking and eating this time next year, or – if you’re an old hand – already are
- 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, 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 November
- 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. Narcissus 'Paperwhite' start to flower and hyacinths and amaryllis
- Tender perennials: Chrysanthemums and alstroemerias from under cover
Why not try out our seasonal recipes for December too? Like saute of red Brussels sprouts with almonds, pumpkin seed and cinnamon brittle or Sarah's Christmas muffins.