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Top 5 Garden Jobs for December

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Jackie Hunt

Jackie Hunt has worked as gardener and estate manager at the award-winning Turn End gardens in Haddenham, Bucks, since 2010. Previously she was a gardener for the National Trust and ran her own garden design and maintenance business. She also has an Masters in furniture design. Nothing to do with gardening I know but I also find that mightily impressive! Here are her gardening tips for December. 


With short days and chilly mornings, you may not feel like getting out in the garden much this month, but it can be beautiful outside on a bright, crisp day and plants encrusted in early morning frost is a wonderful sight. Here are some jobs that need doing in December if you have the time and inclination!


1. Clear borders

The late autumn means that Turn End garden has stayed full of growth for longer than usual, so I’m still cutting back dead growth and picking up fallen leaves. I like to cut back withered herbaceous plants before Christmas, leaving the ground clear for early bulbs to peek through.

In particular I cut back the leaves of Hellebores (Christmas & Lenten Rose, above) so you can see the delicate blooms in all their glory. The flower buds are emerging early this year, so remove the leaves on stemless types as soon as you see the buds. This is particularly important if leaves looked diseased with the fungus hellebore leaf spot. Exposing the flowers also helps insects to pollinate the flowers.

Do try to keep some areas of your garden a little untidy. Wildlife will appreciate the protection of leaf litter and old stems through the winter.

2. Protect for winter cold

Wind, rain and snow will take its toll on those lovely protective structures you have made for delicate plants. Check that everything is securely in place. Also check your greenhouse heater is working. You can install a simple minimum /maximum thermometer for greenhouses and growrooms that helps you keep an eye on temperatures. If you can, turn off the supply of water to outside taps and let them drain. Bring in or cover garden furniture that you won’t be using.

3. Prune vines

Some plants are best pruned in late autumn and early winter to avoid bleeding. This means pruning before the sap rises, which in plants such as acers, birch and grapes happens early in the year.

How you prune your vines depends on how you grow and train them. Ours are grown over a pergola and against a wall, so we aim to follow the ‘Rod and Spur’ pruning system. You can find good advice about pruning grapes on the RHS website:

4. Reduce watering of houseplants and greenhouse plants
All plants have different requirements, but most indoor and greenhouse plants will be less active over winter months. Allow the compost to almost dry out completely between waterings for cacti and succulents.

Water most foliage house plants sparingly in winter, again, allowing the top of the compost to dry out each time between waterings. Most flowering plants prefer to be kept moist, but not wet, at all times, so water carefully through winter just as the surface of compost becomes dry.

5. Pruning and Planting in the Fruit Garden

As long as the ground isn’t too wet or frosty, you can still plant deciduous trees and fruit bushes this month. It’s also time to prune open grown apple and pear trees and autumn raspberries, redcurrants and gooseberries.

Find more ideas here


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