Put in a little winter work now

Date:

Gardener Pete Harcom has your list of jobs (and not-jobs!) for December

Leave the dead hydrangea heads on the bush to protect new growth

Though the garden is quiet in the middle of winter, getting on with some jobs now will get you well ahead for the spring and will ensure your garden is ready as the seasons turn towards the warmer, brighter months.

Prepare your borders
Winter digging can continue, weather permitting – just don’t dig when the soil is too wet or frozen. To feed the soil and improve the structure, use garden compost, well-rotted manure and leaf mould.

Cut it back
Pruning all the climbing roses and any tall ones will help reduce wind rock during the worst of the winter weather. Prune old flowered rose shoots to a third of their length, and check all climbers to ensure they are adequately supported.
Now is also the right time to prune your Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum) if required

Protect your pots
Bring your potted plants into the greenhouse, or failing that at least move them into groups – this will help protect them from harsh winds and frosts.

Sowing time
Sow your sweet peas and micro greens seeds in the greenhouse. Also sow some alpine plants now – these can be very easy to grow in a cool greenhouse, and don’t worry about the exposure to low temperatures before germination some alpines need, an average UK winter should provide the right temperatures. If you already have alpines in the flower borders, it’s also a good idea to put some gravel around them now to prevent them getting waterlogged.

A little protection work
Fungal spores and many pest-pupae overwinter in the soil at the base of plants, ready for action once spring arrives and growth begins again. Remove (and compost) all old mulches in all areas of the garden, and lightly dig around the base of plants to expose any resident pests to predators (birds love grubs!) and winter weather.

Pond life
If you have a pond, ensure plenty of light is getting in through the winter months by removing any overhanging shrubs and trees. This will help your pond plants to replenish oxygen levels in the water. Always ensure there is a ball or similar to help prevent the surface entirely freezing over during any cold snaps.

Christmas decorations
Harvest the winter berries on plants like Holly if you intend to use them for wreaths or garlands for Christmas displays, before the birds and the weather get them all. They should be fine if you put them in buckets of water until you are ready to use them.

And what NOT to do:
Avoid disturbing large piles of leaves now. Leaf piles are amazing for wildlife, providing shelter and a great nesting spot for hibernating animals, such as hedgehogs, small mammals, frogs and countless insects.
Lastly, just leave your Hydrangeas’ spent flower heads on the plants! They help protect the new flower buds that are forming lower down the stems.

Sponsored by Thorngrove Garden Centre

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