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In the Garden : December

Another difficult year draws to close, with probably another one to follow! Thank goodness, for those of us lucky enough to have gardens, that find peace and contentment tending our plants. Mind, there’s lot to do in our December garden tidying up for the winter and planning for next year – so let’s get to it and look at what we need to do in the various areas.


Continue to collect fallen leaves for composting. This ensures maximum light gets to the grass to keep it healthy during the winter. In the same way, do not walk on the lawn in frosty weather as this can cause damage, resulting in ‘brown footprints!

frost on lawn


If the weather is mild and the grass continues to grow, mow if necessary with blades at the highest setting.

Continue lawn spiking and raking. The surface will be very compacted following the dry summer and you need to get air into the soil to allow the grass to breathe and make new roots.

Repair any damaged lawn edges.


In the Flower Garden

Sow seeds such as alpines that need a cold period to break dormancy and stimulate germination. Seed of summer bedding plants like begonias and geraniums that need a long growing period to flower can be started in a heated greenhouse.



In the herbaceous border, cut back any remaining fading flower stems.

Lift and separate large clumps of herbaceous perennials, it will improve their vigour. You can also take – root cuttings of some plants like phlox and poppies.


Shrubs & Roses

Prune acers and vines and prune and shape most deciduous shrubs in general.                      

Plant ‘bare root’ shrubs and trees if ground free from frost.

Prune climbing roses and honeysuckles.

Prune Hybrid-tea roses down by half to prevent ‘wind rock’ loosening the roots. Complete the final pruning later in winter.

Leave faded heads on hydrangeas which will protect developing buds below from frosts.



The Vegetable Plot

If the soil is still warm, sow winter-hardy broad beans such as ‘Aquadulce Claudia’ or if a dwarf variety is required ‘The Sutton’. Cover the rows with cloches or tunnel fleece.

December is the month to sow varieties bred for giant onions in summer.

Harvest root crops such as carrots, swedes, turnips and parsnips.

Trim off yellowing basal leaves from brassica crops and cover with netting to protect from pigeons.

Thinking ahead to next year, dig out a trench for your runner beans. You can gradually fill this with kitchen vegetable trimmings to improve fertility and drainage in the spring.

If you have not already done so, make a plan of where you have grown your different vegetables and rotate them to another area next year.

Cut down this years asparagus foliage before the worst of the winter.



The Fruit Patch

Plant bare root cane fruit such as raspberries, currants and gooseberries whilst dormant

 Prune apples and pears (not those grown as a ‘fan’ on a wall)

Strawberry crop not so good this year? If the plants are over three years old, then their yield will be starting to decline and they may have virus problems. Time then to begin preparing a new site and consult the catalogues for some new plants for next spring delivery.

Don’t forget your rhubarb, if its well established it may be time to give it a boost by digging it out splitting the old crowns and replanting. You will increase the plants vigour and consequent cropping.

On a fine day, make sure your secateurs are sharp and set about pruning your apple and pear trees.



In the Greenhouse

December is the time to prune grapes in the greenhouse or conservatory.

Its ‘clean the greenhouse ‘ time if not already done.

Empty the greenhouse and scrub down the glass and frame inside and out with disinfectant, paying particular attention to gulleys and joints where pests and disease spores can lurk. Replace pot plants, taking the opportunity to trim off any yellowing leaves and check for pests.

Remember to be sparing with the watering during winter as the plants are semi-dormant.


It seems a quiet time, but as you can see, there’s a lot to do, but you need your rest, so take it easy over Christmas lazing in front of the fire and leafing through those seed and plant catalogues!

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