December Gardening Calendar

It may feel too cold to be working outside but clear wintery days are perfect to tackle jobs that get forgotten during busier times, such as dealing with overhung paths, blocked ditches and garden furniture that needs preserving.

Flowers and shrubs

  • Prune wisteria sideshoots to 10-15cm from their base, and tie in leading shoots to create a framework. Cut back overgrown honeysuckle. Check stakes and ties are secure
  • Cut down dead perennials and clear away annual climbers, such as sweet peas and morning glory. Trim autumn-flowering heathers and deadhead pansies
  • Prune overgrown laurel, yew and camellias back hard to rejuvenate them
  • Prepare soil well before planting new roses and prune the tops of standard roses to reduce wind rock. Firm soil around roses loosened by wind rock during storms and bad weather
  • Finish planting tulip bulbs for spring colour and lily of the valley
  • Move tubs of shrubs or winter bedding to a sheltered spot if conditions turn very cold and wrap straw around the base of tender shrubs and climbers to protect them
  • Spread compost on to flower beds for worms to work in over winter or gently fork it in, taking care not to injure emerging bulbs
  • Snow may look beautiful but remember to knock it off the branches of shrubs, trees and other plants bending under its weight to prevent branches breaking

Fruit and vegetables

  • Plant new fruit trees, bushes and canes in deep holes filled with plenty of compost
  • Net cabbages and other brassicas (such as cauliflowers, broccoli and Brussels sprouts) to protect them from bird damage
  • Spread straw on flower beds to prevent soil freezing around parsnips and use cloches to protect winter peas, beans and salads
  • Lift and divide congested clumps of rhubarb, replanting them into soil enriched with well-rotted manure, then cover clumps with buckets or large pots to keep them in the dark and force early stems
  • Prepare areas in which to plant new fruit trees, fruit bushes and broad beans by digging in lots of organic matter to improve the soil. Think ahead where you want to plant runner beans in April and you could dig a composting trench and fill it with kitchen peelings for it to be nicely decomposed in time
  • Dig over bare areas, hoe to remove weed seedlings and mixing in compost or well-rotted manure

In the greenhouse

  • Check your greenhouse heaters are in working order and that there’s fuel in stock - monitor day and night temperatures with a max-min thermometer and turn on heating if needed
  • Line your greenhouse with bubble wrap for insulation against falling night temperatures
  • Clear leaves from greenhouse gutters and keep the glass clean to let in light. Clear out old crops and growing bags
  • Sow hardy annuals, like calendulas, in pots for early displays
  • Take root cuttings of perennials including phlox and oriental poppies
  • Water plants, such as fuchsias and pelargoniums, sparingly and avoid splashing the water around to keep the atmosphere as dry as possible over winter and avoid the spread of disease
  • Water potted azaleas regularly; use rainwater to keep the compost moist
  • Deadhead flowers and pick off yellowing or faded leaves; cut down chrysanthemums after flowering. Pinch out the tips of autumn-sown sweet peas to promote bushier growth
  • Check corms, tubers and bulbs in store for signs of rot
  • This is your last chance to bring on forced indoor bulbs, such as hyacinths, for festive decorations
  • Bring in potted strawberries and peach trees to protect from winter rain and encourage earlier fruiting

Lawn and trees

  • Cut your grass on a dry day with the blades set high and remember not to walk on lawns in frosty weather or when it’s very wet
  • Plant bareroot trees and deciduous hedges, such as beech and privet, with plenty of compost
  • Deciduous trees and shrubs can still be planted or transplanted if you want to move their position in the garden

General maintenance

  • Rake up fallen leaves that could be sheltering slugs and scoop fallen leaves out of ponds
  • Now’s the time to get some manure to improve your soil - either dig it in during the winter months or pile it onto the soil for the worms to do all the hard work and drag it under for you
  • Take this chance to de-clutter your shed, sharpen blades of hoes, secateurs and other tools, and repair and treat fencing and timber structures with preservative while climbing plants are dormant
  • Wrap insulation material around outdoor taps and pipes; remove pumps and filters from ponds and bubble fountains to avoid damage in freezing weather
  • Protect large ceramic or delicate glazed pots from frost damage by wrapping them in bubble wrap or moving them into a shed or somewhere undercover during winter

Plan ahead

  • Order dahlias, gladioli, lilies and other summer-flowering bulbs
  • Order seeds, onion sets and seed potatoes and make a sowing plan for greenhouse crops and bedding plants
  • Get ready to plant asparagus in spring by removing weeds, digging over the soil, and adding compost

Little green fingers

  • An easy job for children this month - get them to check garden birds have water to drink, especially on frosty days when the bird bath might be frozen. They can break the ice and take out bread crusts and peanuts or seeds so birds don’t go hungry.
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