Garden To Do List for December

Hello December!

The key tasks for an organised, growing, healthy garden for this month are:

1. Lift and divide congested herbaceous plants

Herbaceous plants will eventually become congested and this adversely affects the clump’s ability to flower. December is a great chance to make a few new plants for free. However, only lift and divide plants if the weather allows - waterlogged soil isn’t great to work in and if conditions are frozen you will damage the plant's roots.

2. Insulate outdoor taps

Outdoor pipes and taps can freeze and then leak - or worse, burst. Turn off the water supply to the outdoor tap (there is often a valve under the sink in the pipe running to outside. Most have a slot that can be turned to turn the water supply off) Once shut off, drain the pipe into a watering can and wrap bubble plastic around the tap. If you still need to use your tap, wrap it in an insulating material or cover. If you have a hose attached, to wash the dog perhaps, make sure you empty the hose after turning off the tap to stop this freezing too.

3. Clean and service mowers

Chances are that December will mean your mower is having a little vacation a few weeks, making this the perfect time to get it serviced. A sharp blade cuts better. Drain any petrol from mowers and ensure that everything is clean. Dried grass is easily cleaned off using a stiff brush. If you need to take your mower in for a service, I bet you’re the only one to think of doing it now and not in early spring. You may find it's cheaper this time of year too. t’s a great job for a cold, sunny afternoon. Once done, your mower is ready for straight-from-the-shed action.

4. Put out clean water for birds

Bird food is already top of your priority list, but wild birds also need a supply of clean water, especially if ponds and puddles are frozen. And that water needs to be clean, so make it a daily job to wash out old water, clean the birdbath and replenish with fresh water. You may save the lives of birds by doing this simple task.

5. Prune acers

It’s your last chance of the year to prune acers. Take a look at the tree and only prune where absolutely necessary - for shape perhaps or if a branch has died completely (this does happen a lot with acers). Prune, stand back, check and then get back in. Shred any prunings and add to your compost heap.

6. Ensure automatic window openers work

Plants may appear snug in a well-insulated greenhouse, but bugs and diseases will also be enjoying such conditions. Even on cold days the temperature will rise in a greenhouse so you need to check that the automatic vent openers are working and are unimpeded by any insulation you have put in place. A quick check that lumps of moss and general debris aren’t clogging up the movement is also a good idea at this time of year.

7. Mulch around hellebores

The beautiful blooms of hellebores are always in danger of being splashed by the muddy rain of winter. A quick mulch around the base of plants with home made compost will ensure you see the flowers at their best and as the mulch rots down, the soil will be improved. Everyone’s a winner.

8. Carefully defrost frozen ponds

Ponds can freeze over and put your fish at risk. Smashing the ice isn't wise as the shock to fish can be deadly. Gently place a saucepan of warm water on the surface, keeping hold of the handle of course, to defrost holes in the surface. It is the best way to ensure your fish are safe in the coldest parts of the month!

9. Watch for bugs in greenhouses

Even an unheated greenhouse is a few degrees warmer than the outside and that can be enough for some bugs to get a hold on your plants. Whitelf is more than capable of producing large colony over winter and mealy bugs will burrow into and gnaw away at your succulent plants without a care in the world. Watch out for them and treat as appropriate. It’s also a good excuse to spend an hour in the greenhouse.

10. Order seeds

There are days in December when it is wet, cold and miserable. They are perfect days to browse the seed section of your favourite seed supplier, place your order and start dreaming of spring sowings and summer bloomers. You also ensure you get all those tasty new varieties before they sell out. It’s a great way to while away a few hours of a dreary winter afternoon.