In December, things finally quieten down in the garden and it’s a good time to take stock and plan for next year. There are still a few jobs that need doing though, so take advantage of those occasional fine days, wrap up warm and get outdoors.
While there’s not much going on in the veg plot or borders right now, there’s plenty of pruning and leaf-raking to do, and you can always escape into the potting shed or greenhouse for a couple of hours. Here’s our quick guide to what to do in the garden in December.
Your essential December checklist
- Keep those bird feeders topped up with high-energy suet pellets, seeds and mealworms. Small birds will particularly love things like Nature’s Feast Fruit and Berry Energy Balls.
- Insulate outdoor taps.
- Keep off the lawn as much as possible when its frosty or very wet, to avoid damaging the grass.
- During frosty weather, move terracotta pots indoors to prevent them from cracking, or protect them with bubble wrap if you don’t have room to bring them in
- Hard prune overgrown deciduous shrubs and hedges now while they are dormant.
- Keep raking leaves off lawns so that the grass can get some sunlight.
- Brush heavy snow off greenhouses and cold frames to prevent damage.
- Make sure greenhouse heaters are providing enough heat, and check plants for overwintering aphids.
- Take the opportunity to check, clean and sharpen your garden tools.
- Water houseplants less frequently, and move them into a brighter position to make the most of the winter sunlight.
- Clear leaves and weeds from ponds and net them to stop more leaves falling in. Leave the weeds and debris on the side of the pond for a few days before disposing of it, so that any wildlife living in it can escape.
- Start ordering next year’s seeds, sets and plug plants.
Flower beds and borders
- Dry days are your opportunity to plant bare-rooted roses and ornamental trees, provided the ground isn’t frozen or waterlogged.
- Plant winter-scented shrubs like Sarcococca, winter honeysuckle and Hamamelis to fill the garden with fragrance on cold crisp days.
- Although Japanese maples don’t need regular pruning, if you need to remove awkwardly-place branches, now’s the time to do it.
- Leave dried hydrangea flowers on the plants until spring to give the developing buds some protection from frost.
In the veg plot
- Harvest leeks, Brussels sprouts, parsnips and any other root crops.
- Protect winter salad crops with fleece in cold weather or grow them under cloches.
- Support Brussels sprouts with canes, and firm the ground around their roots. Remove any yellowing leaves from sprouts and other brassicas.
- Cover winter crops with fleece to protect them from pigeons.
- Prune apple and pear trees (but leave wall-trained trees until summer next year).
- Prune grapevines, currants and autumn raspberries.