For me it does not really feel like December… November has been an extremely gentle month weather wise. We have had less rain than during our summer and the temperature has been high compared to other Novembers. I have glided gently into December unaware of it possible harshness… noticing only the bareness of the trees and heaps of raked leaves my fellow local gardeners are leaving behind on the local autumn compost heap. Only a couple of days ago my gardener turned up with his noisy leaf-blower to turn my fallen leaves into neat heaps ready to join the local ones…
I do rake the lawn and paths myself but for the borders I call upon his expertise with the blower, as I do not posses one yet. It saves all my plants from getting broken or damaged by my rake… as I love to keep the winter silhouette in tact. After this noisy blowing session anything extra that falls onto the garden, except for the lawn and paths, I leave for insects to hibernate under.
Although there are no signs of snow yet, I have already stocked up on birdfood and have strategically placed the birdfeeders in the garden so we can enjoy their squablings in the morning and late afternoon feeding sessions.
So get out and about the garden and enjoy it’s natural beauty and get the last chores done before the real wintery season sets in with snow and frost. A time when the garden breathes peace and tranquility covering all the elements in a dust of silver and white… always a sensation to the eye. I secretly always wish for a white christmas… waking up to a white glistening world hurrying outside to be one of the first to take a brisk crisp walk before I get stuck into my first cup of coffee and other christmas activities.
Here is the ‘To Do List’:
■ Keep lawns, borders and paths clear of fallen leaves.
■ Once deciduous plants and climbers have cleared, repair garden structures.
■ Dig over new borders.
■ Plant evergreen shrubs if conditions are dry.
■ Plant bare-root roses, trees and shrubs.
■ Ensure you have berries for Christmas decorations by netting holly bunches to protect them from birds.
■ Net your pond to keep the water clear of leaves.
■ Order seed catalogues to enjoy over the festive break.
■ Prune bush roses down by half to avoid roots damage in winter winds.
■ Clear the remains of old crops in vegetable patches.
■ Buy a container-grown Christmas tree.
In the greenhouse
■ Check the greenhouse heating is working properly.
■ Ventilate whenever there’s a sunny day to keep the atmosphere dry.
■ In the greenhouse, water sparingly early in the day.
■ Clean and repair tools and tidy the shed. Massage some oil into the tools too.
■ Sort out any leftover or half-empty seed packets and throw out any that are now out of date or damaged.
■ Saved seeds left to dry can now be cleaned and packaged. If you have enough, a packet of home-grown seeds makes an ideal little gift slipped into a Christmas card.
■ Wash all pots and seed trays so they are ready for spring sowing.
■ Remove and burn dead foliage from around roses to help control black spot.<
■ Check for hellebore viral disease ‘black death’; look for black streaking and mottling between leaf veins. There’s no cure, so burn affected plants
Planting and sowing
■ Plant trees and hedges, as long as the ground isn’t frozen
■ Prune formal deciduous hedges. Cut back the sunny side and top, and trim the shady side next December.
■ Informal deciduous hedges that have grown leggy can be rejuvenated this month with some radical pruning. Cut every second stem close to ground level. Next year, when new growth has sprouted from the base, the remaining stems can be cut down.
■ Winter prune apple, pear and quince trees – burn any shoots that show signs of canker.
■ Plan your planting for the coming year in a gardener’s notebook.
■ Fill in your seed order.
■ Protect vulnerable plants. Fleece is very effective, but if you prefer something less obtrusive, a circle of wire-netting filled with bracken or leaves will keep the cold at bay.
■ Cover empty vegetable beds with fleece or clear (not back) plastic, which will warm the soil so it is easier to work.
■ Bring watering cans under cover. If they have to stay out, turn them upside down to prevent frost damage.
■ Keep an area of the pond ice-free by partially covering it with boards.
Happy wintery Gardening!