Jobs For December

Here's a few ideas of what you could be doing this month...

Top Tip - Frozen over

Don’t be tempted to smash ice on a pond with a spade as the shock waves could kill fish or other wildlife. Create a breathing hole by putting a rubber ball in the water before it freezes, removing it once ice forms.

Beds and borders

• Alpines need all the light they can get over winter, so regularly remove fallen leaves from around the crowns of these tiny gems.
• Fill your garden with scent by planting a winter flowering perfumed shrub, such as Daphne odora, Viburnum bodnantese or Sarcocca humilis.
• Keep the base of trees and shrubs weed free by hoeing. Any weeds you remove can be added to the compost heap.
• Control leaf spot disease on phormiums, hellebores, cordyline and yuccas by spraying with a suitable fungicide.
• Firm wallflowers, daises, forget-me-nots, Sweet Williams and other spring flowering bedding plants back into the ground if they’ve been lifted by frost.

Plants in pots

• Plants in pots are vulnerable to water logging over winter, which can cause roots to rot. Raise them up onto pot feet or stand on bricks, to allow excess moisture to drain away.
• Dry, windy weather will quickly dry out compost in pots - keep an eye on containers and water when necessary to keep plants healthy.

Trees and shrubs

• Cut off dead stems of wall shrubs and climbers, then tie in any wayward shoots to prevent them being snapped off in windy weather.
• Remove dead, diseased or dying branches from deciduous trees.

In the kitchen garden

• Cover winter cabbages, kale and other crops with fine mesh to protect them from pigeons.
• Finish picking apples and pears, storing them in a frost-free garage or shed.
• Prune red currant bushes, cutting back the leading shoot that developed this year to within 7.5cm of the older growth. Reduce side-branches to one bud.
• Check stored beetroot, potatoes, carrots, turnips and onions, discarding any that are soft or show signs of rotting.

Don't forget...

• In dry weather, treat wooden fences, trellis, arches and garden furniture with a preservative to protect them from weathering. Remove any dirt from surfaces with water, allow to dry and wear gloves when applying oil, water or paint-based preservatives.
• Remove any wire supports used for training fruit against walls and fences if they are heavily rusted. Replace with medium gauge galvanised wire.
• Make sure compost bays and bins are covered with a lid, bit of old carpet or piece of heavy duty plastic to prevent chilly rain turning the mix soggy.
• Brush any snow off the top of hedges or shrubs to prevent the weight from splaying out branches and causing them to snap.

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