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December gardening tips

A garden in autumn colours

December’s gardening essentials

  1. Tip 1 Check on any bulbs and tubers that you dug up and stored this autumn. Take out and throw away any that show signs of disease or rot.
  2. Tip 2 Winter rains tend to make you forget about watering your garden. However, plants and shrubs that are growing under large evergreens may lack water in the cold winter months which can be fatal to many of these plants. Check them regularly to see if you need to do a little winter watering.
  3. Tip 3 During particularly cold spells, provide extra protection for your more tender flowering plants. You can provide temporary, emergency protection by driving in three of four stakes around the plant, and then simply covering the plant with fleece, but remember to remove the cover once the weather improves.
  4. Tip 4 Stay off frozen grass!
  5. Tip 5 Provide your house plants with extra humidity by grouping plants together, or by setting the pots on leak proof trays filled with moistened pebbles.
  6. Tip 6 Take care of our feathered friends! Keep your bird feeder filled, especially when there is snow on the ground.
  7. Tip 7 Don't let your hose freeze and burst. Stretch it out with both ends open, to allow the water to drain completely. Coil it up and put it away.
  8. Tip 8 Make sure your outdoor taps are covered to protect them from freezing.

Week-by-week gardening tips for December

Week 1

  • Check stakes and ties on newly planted trees to make sure they are secure and not rubbing.
  • Keep an area of the pond ice free if you keep fish.
  • Lag or drain outdoor pipes.
  • Protect newly planted shrubs and shrubs of borderline hardiness by covering them with an insulating material such as horticultural fleece, plastic bubble wrap or straw.
  • Clean and service the lawnmower and other garden tools.

Week 2

  • Check bulbs being forced for early flowering to make sure they don’t dry out and are given light and warmth at the right time.
  • Prune winter-flowering shrubs over three years old after flowering.
  • Order or buy seeds of those plants that need to be sown in mid and late winter to ensure they get the long growing season they need.
  • Check sorted dahlia tubers for disease and dispose of any that are shrivelling or rotting.

Week 3

  • Prune apple and pear trees and treat the cuts with wound paint.
  • Check that fuchsias packed in compost for the winter do not become completely dry and protect the crowns of hardy fuchsias outdoors with garden compost.
  • Open the greenhouse ventilators on sunny days but close them early in the afternoon before the temperature drops.
  • Check plants in the greenhouse, in cold frames and under cloches to see if they need watering.

Week 4

  • Lift rhubarb roots for forcing indoors and start forcing selected crowns outdoors.
  • Clear and dig beds for use next spring provided the ground is not waterlogged or frozen.
  • Keep the garden tidy and weed free the give over wintering pests fewer places to shelter.
  • Use cold winter days when it is not possible to work outdoors to plan design improvements and new plantings for the spring.