Your Garden in December
December is here, and the festive season is looming. It's a busy time of year so we're fortunate that our gardens aren't too demanding. There are still jobs to be done, though, and being in the garden is a welcome distraction from everything else that's going on.
Nobody wants to be outdoors in freezing temperatures or driving wind and rain. However, on those still, bright days, the winter garden is a joy, and there's nothing like a bit of horticultural effort to keep you warm!
Keep clearing fallen leaves from your lawn and paths, adding them to your compost or your leaf mould collections. If you have small Alpine plants in your garden, remove fallen leaves from their crowns, too, as they need all the light they can get over winter.
If your garden is exposed, and you know that frost is forecast, you need to provide protection for tender plants, such as Pittosporum, Callistemon and Clianthus. Materials such as horticultural fleece, hessian, bracken and straw can be used to insulate plants from cold or wind.
Tree Ferns have certainly grown in popularity recently; these gorgeous plants are quite an investment, so must be protected in cold weather. In a sheltered spot, a packing of straw or bracken over the crown should suffice. Make sure you pack it gently, so you don't damage any delicate new fronds.
In more exposed gardens or if there is a very hard frost forecast, complete wrapping is recommended. Gather up the fronds and tie them upright with packing in the centre, then wrap the whole plant, from top to toe, in a double layer of horticultural fleece. A layer of mulch around the base provides extra protection for the roots.
You may have to unwrap your plants if there is an extended period of very mild weather, to prevent them sweating or even rotting, only to wrap them up again when the cold returns. Such is the life of the dedicated gardener! In spring, when the severe frosts have passed, and new growth has started, remove the wrapping in stages to allow the plant to acclimatise.
If the ground is not waterlogged or frozen, you can add new plants for seasonal interest. The lovely conifer, Cryptomeria 'Sekkan-sugi', is perfect for a winter border with its light green and golden foliage. Evergreen Sarcococca confusa will add colour and fragrance to your winter garden.
It's a good time to wash down your tools, giving wooden and metal areas a wipe with linseed oil. Have your shears and secateurs sharpened, and maybe your lawnmower serviced, whilst you don't need them. You might find some of your tools are past their best; if so, maybe add them to your Christmas list.
Is this the year for a lifetime Christmas tree? These living trees can be added to your garden after Christmas, either in their pots or planted. Choose a variety such as Nordman Fir and make sure it has been pot grown.
One last tip for the festive season: those pretty, coloured wrappings from Quality Street sweets are cellulose-based so can be added to your compost bin, whilst the foil wraps can be recycled with your cans. Guilt-free and environmentally-friendly Christmas snacking!
All the best for the festive season!
DECEMBER ON THE VEG PLOT
Whether you have an allotment, a veggie patch in your garden or just a few containers for growing your own.
Sow hardy lettuce and salad leaves in the greenhouse, to be enjoyed during late winter and early spring. Keep digging the plot during spells of dry weather, but stay off the soil if wet, to prevent compaction.
When pruning your garden keep an eye out for suitable twiggy supports to save for your peas. They look good and perform well.
After our long hot summer, maybe it's time to invest in a water butt as most plants prefer rain water to tap water. Add one to your Christmas wish list. If installed in the new year, it will be full by spring.
A trip to the plot to harvest is a great escape at this busy time, and it's lovely to bring something to the table on Christmas day for all the family to share. Wishing you all a merry Christmas and a peaceful, productive new year.