1. Protect Your Tender Plants.
Ideally this would have already been done in November before the first frosts arrived (depending on where in the country you live), but December really is the last chance.
Fully tender plants should ideally be brought inside under cover – a frost free greenhouse, a conservatory, a porch, basically anywhere where the plants can continue to get light, but avoid the frost and harshest of the winter weather.
Half-hardy plants should also be brought inside if possible, but if it isn’t, give them a good covering of mulch to protect them. A good layer of bark-chips or straw will suffice for perennials that have died down, however, for larger plants, horticultural fleece is just the thing.
2. Renovate Hard Landscaping.
With the plants in the garden taking all your time during the Summer months, now is the perfect time to spruce up your hard landscaping. Give paths a good clean, particularly making sure you give a lot of attention to shaded areas where moss can make the path slippery.
Take a look at your sheds & fences. Do they needs any repairs? If not, maybe a coating of preservative or paint could be required. In damp climates wood has a tendency to rot, so reduce the risk of rotting and maximise the lifespan of your wooden garden features by using a quality preservative.
3. Protect Outdoor Taps & Pipes.
If you’re able to isolate the waterflow to the tap and turn the water off, do it and then turn the tap on to drain out any remaining water. If this isn’t possible, wrap the tap up and lag the pipes in old rags, towels etc. anything to protect it from the coldest temperatures.
4. Feed & Water The Birds.
The wild birds that populate your garden really need your help now and over the next few months. Natural food supplies are at their lowest and water sources can freeze.
Different types of birds prefer different types of foods, so put out a range of bird foods including mixed seed, niger seed, sunflower hearts, nuts, fat balls. If you’ve got any cheese (but not mouldy cheese) or fruit that your thinking of throwing out, chop them up and put them on the bird table. And don’t forget that not all birds use feeders, so make sure some food goes on the ground for gound feeders.
Also, do not allow water sources such as bird baths, ponds etc. to freeze over. If they do freeze, crack the surface to let the birds get to the water below.
5. Water Undercover Plants.
If you have plants undercover (under cloches or in the greenhouse) don’t forget to water them. However, do so sparingly as plants require less water at this time of year whilst they are largely dormant. Overwatering can lead to rotting of the plant.
6. Continue Winter Digging.
In your empty borders, and in particular your vegetable beds, continue with winter digging to loosen & aerate the soil and remove any prevailing weeds. Incorporate organic matter into the soil as you dig to improve the quality of the soil. Avoid digging in very wet weather when the soil is saturated – this is particularly important with heavy clay soil.
7. Prune Fruit Trees.
Now all the fruit will have been harvested from your fruit trees and bushes, take the time to tidy them up with any required pruning. Similarly, prune any woody ornamental plants now.
8. Sow Early Crops.
If you’re looking to have some early cropping vegetables, sow some under cover now. Check the seed packets to see which ones can be sown this early.
9. Buy Seeds For New Year.
Most seed companies make their new stock available in late November or December. Take the time now to browse through their catalogues or visit gardening websites and buy the seeds you want to plant in the New Year. Then come January, you’re ready to go.
10. Take A Break!
You’ve had a busy year, put your feet up in a nice warm room with hot mug of tea and watch the rain coming down outside. You deserve a rest! And look forward to starting all over again in January.
Graeme Toyne is a qualified garden designer and professional gardener based in Flintshire, North Wales. As well as offering garden design & maintenance services in North Wales & Cheshire, he also runs an online garden store where customers can purchase from a wide selection of gardening supplies such as gardening tools, plants and seeds plus a good choice of garden leisure equipment such a barbecues, firepits & lanterns. So if you’re looking for something for your garden or as a gift for a gardening friend or relative, visit http://www.oasisgardening.co.uk/gardenstore/.
Source: Graeme Toyne