Gardens and gardeners alike should both take advantage of the fact that nature allows a rest at this time of year. There’s less to do in a midwinter garden than at any other time of year but the tasks that do need attending to are important.
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Tenderer container plants will already be indoors or in the greenhouse or conservatory, for others, it’s sufficient to wrap the pots in some sort of insulation material. Bubble wrap is ideal if you happen to have some to hand, and many of us do at this time of year!
Check greenhouse heating to be sure it’s working as it should and again remember that insulation can save you a fortune on fuel bills. Make sure that ponds and outdoor water pipes are protected to prevent them from freezing.
An interesting way to prevent your pond from freezing is to add 1 or 2 footballs before temperatures drop drastically. The wind will move them around, and this will not allow ice formation. However, if the pond does freeze eventually – fill a saucepan with hot water and put it in the pond. You will notice that the ice will slowly start melting.
If you want to protect your outdoor pipes from freezing, you can insulate them with pipe sponge covers. Another way to prevent frost damage is to run the taps regularly, as running water won’t be able to freeze, or alternatively, make sure to drain the water system entirely if you have plans away from the property.
Another essential winter gardening job is to remove the previously built-up snow from your garden shed, greenhouse or any other structure for that matter. Get yourself a soft broom and carefully remove the snow from your plants as well because the extra weight can cause damage. Also, make sure you don’t walk on your frozen lawn. Otherwise, you might impair it.
Sweep the fallen debris and leaves from your patio. It’s also highly advisable to pressure wash the patio in order to avoid lichen buildup.
Digging over beds
This is a weather-dependent job, when the ground is wet you’ll just compact the soil and do more harm than good. Cold frosty conditions are ideal for a number of reasons:
- The frost itself helps break up and condition heavy soils
- Exposing roots of perennial weeds to cold may kill or at least weaken them.
- Hungry birds will be delighted to assist your gardening efforts by eating any pests and grubs you turn up
- Digging is great exercise at this time of year!
You might be cold at the start, so do work gently to start with, it’s all too easy to strain a muscle in a burst of gardening enthusiasm! You’ll warm up quickly enough from the effort and, in a few hours, you’ll have given your sluggish winter metabolism a great workout!
Another great December gardening job is to clear your yard from weeds and mulch your growing beds. By doing so, you will be able to protect your plants from harsh weather conditions, feed them with much-needed nutrients and prevent further weed growth. You can either use garden compost, leaf mould or bark chippings.
Keep bird feeders and water containers topped up
Your feathered friends are an asset to your garden but winter’s tough on birds. Give them plenty of food. The high-calorie content will help them cope with the winter weather and ensure they have access to fresh, unfrozen water too. This will significantly help birds because finding food and water in the coldest months of the year can be extremely difficult for them.
Encourage birds to your garden in the winter and they’ll reward you in the spring and summer by helping to keep pests under control.
Leaves have already fallen from deciduous trees, making their branch structure exposed. Look for any branches that are either dead, diseased or damaged and cut them back. However, make sure you don’t ruin the tree’s structure and don’t go too hard on pruning.
Trees grown against walls should have been pruned in August and plums and cherries are best pruned in summer to reduce the risk of silver leaf disease, but the dormant season is the right time to prune open-grown apples and pears.
If you’re not confident about tree pruning ask your Fantastic Gardeners to do it for you or to show you how. This is also the right time to prune acers, birches and vines. Shorten their summer side shoots to 3 buds tops.
It’s a great time to take hardwood cuttings, and it’s not too late to transplant deciduous trees and shrubs.
Plan your Summer garden
This is of course our favourite midwinter task and it’s a perfect way to reward yourself after your digging! Get out your books, your seed catalogues and browse the internet, sketch out our ideas and dream of summer fruits and flowers. From December 21st the days start to draw out and although it’s hard to believe right now, spring will be here before you know it!
Additional gardening jobs for December you can benefit from
Fruits and vegetables
- Consider planting thornless blackberries, like “Navaho”, which produces big, sweet, juicy fruits.
- Now is the right time to tidy up the blackberry beds. Remove the weeds (if any), and remember to mulch with compost.
- Cover your winter cabbages, kale and any other brassicas with nets in order to protect them from birds.
- Prevent diseases like downy mildew and grey mould from infecting your brassicas by removing their yellow and dead leaves.
- Prevent Brussels sprout damage from strong winds by tying them to canes and earthing up their stems.
- Relocate potted plants to a more sheltered area because their roots might get damaged if the weather becomes extremely cold.
- Protect fragile shrubs and climbers by covering their bases with straw.
- Regularly check stored bulbs for rotting signs.
- Another fantastic idea is to plant fragrant winter shrubs (for example, Mahonia, Hamamelis, Chimonanthus praecox, etc.) in pots near your doorstep.
- You can also plant ornamental trees, as well as deciduous shrubs in your garden (for example, bare-root roses).
- Bring back watering equipment like hoses and sprinklers in order to protect them from freezing.
- Place your Christmas tree in a pot filled with water and move it to a sheltered spot until the time comes to bring it inside your home.
- Clean and sanitize your garden tools and equipment. Also, don’t forget to tidy-up the shed.
- Examine your tree stakes and ties and make sure they are firm enough and able to withstand wind.
- Clean out your pond(s) by collecting the fallen leaves and debris.
- Pinch the tips out of sweet peas in order to encourage bushy growth.
- Prune the grape vines while dormant.
- Over the winter months, move your houseplants to a sunny windowsill in order to feed them with as much light as possible during the shorter days of the year.
- Make sure not to overwater your plants, otherwise, you risk disease outbreaks.
- Ensure that the heating system in your greenhouse is working properly.
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