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December in the Garden

As we move towards the shortest day of the year you’ll find that gardening means gloves and warm clothing to be comfortable and it’s not just you that will need wrapping up but tender plants in the greenhouse if it’s not heated plus any garden pots that aren’t frost proof and of course outside taps.

There are jobs to do still in the garden but not too many!

General Jobs

You can still plant tulips if the ground isn’t frozen

Gather up fallen leaves from around the base of rose bushes which suffered from blackspot or rust this summer, to reduce the chance of infection next year.

Move containers of shrubs or bedding plants to a sheltered spot; clustering them together helps protect the root systems from suffering frost damage.

Lift and store dahlia tubers once their leaves are blackened by frost.

Check climbers are securely attached with plant ties to their supports and also check tree ties and stakes in case of strong winter winds.

Plant up winter containers with heathers, violas, pansies, skimmia, ivy and hardy cyclamen.

Now is a good time for repairing fences, trellises, pergolas, etc., replacing any loose posts or any that might be rotting at the base before they collapse which could cause a lot of damage. Protect outside taps with a universal purpose made protector

Harvest holly with berries for making Christmas garlands and Christmas wreaths; stand them in a bucket of water until you're ready to use them.

Take hardwood cuttings from suitable trees and shrubs.

Spread fresh gravel or grit around alpine plants.

Wash down all of your garden tools and give them a wipe of linseed oil on the wooden and metal areas to help prevent rusting.

Choose a dry day to clear out the garden shed in preparation for the spring.

There is still time to clean out water butts before they fill with fresh rainwater over winter.

Remove slimy patches on the patio and paving by scrubbing with a broom or blasting with a pressure washer. For an easy alternative try a liquid patio cleaner. 

Keep bird feeders topped up with high energy food and hang fat balls to help the birds through cold days and make sure birdbaths don’t ice over.

Cover compost bins with a piece of old carpet or some plastic sheeting to prevent the compost becoming too cold and wet to rot down.


Now is the perfect time to prune fruit trees to maintain an open, balanced structure and encourage quality fruit production. However plums, cherries and other stone fruits should not be pruned until the summer as winter pruning will make them susceptible to silver leaf fungus. Make sure you use clean, sharp secateurs to avoid damaging your trees.

You can prune vines now, birches and also Japanese Maples as they will bleed sap if done any later

Start to prune Wisteria cutting back summer side shoots to 2 or 3 buds.

Prune climbing roses. 

Don’t prune the faded flower heads on your hydrangeas but leave them until the spring, as they will provide frost protection to the swelling buds further down the stems.

In The Veg Garden

Lift the last of your leeks and parsnips before the soil becomes frozen, and heel them into a trench beside a convenient path. They will keep well for several months like this and can be easily brought indoors when required.

Lift and divide established clumps of rhubarb to renew the plant's vigour. Sections taken from the outside of the plant are better than those from the centre.

Remove yellowing leaves from your winter brassicas as they are no use to the plant and may harbour pests and diseases and if you have a pigeon problem cover with netting.

If you haven't already, cut down dead asparagus foliage and the top growth of Jerusalem artichokes.

Put manure on the empty beds and let the worms do their job over winter.

Try digging a trench where you will be growing your beans next year - fill it with green waste and cover with soil again. This will rot down and improve the growing conditions for your beans.

Keep fleece to hand to protect hardy salad crops from heavy frosts.

In the Fruit Garden

Protect wall trained peaches and nectarines from wet winter weather which spreads the peach leaf curl fungus. Construct a screen of clear polythene positioned over the plant but not touching it.

Protect the tips of fig tree branches as these will carry the fruits for next year and are susceptible to frost. Cover with fleece or straw.

Apply glue or grease bands to the trunks of fruit trees to prevent wingless female winter moths climbing the trunks and laying their eggs in the branches.

If you'd like to grow your own delicious raspberries next year, plant raspberry canes now whilst they are dormant. 

If your strawberry plants are over 3 years old it's probably time to replace them as old strawberry plants can harbour diseases and tend to lose vigour and productivity.

Try planting blueberries this winter as they're an attractive addition to the fruit garden. With pretty white flowers, delicious berries and fiery autumn foliage these acid-loving plants provide constant interest.


Avoid walking on your lawn when it is blanketed by heavy frost or snow, as this will damage the grass.

If it's a mild winter, continue to cut the lawn if it's growing, but raise the height of the mower blades.

Spike lawns with a garden fork to improve drainage and aeration.

Keep clearing leaves off the lawn to let the light in and prevent dead patches appearing.


Posted by Charlie Groves

Charlie is the manager at Groves Nurseries.  He is the 6th generation of C.W. Groves to run the garden centre. 

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