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December in your garden

Day by day Christmas is getting closer, and if you’re looking for gifts to give to family and friends why not have a look at our Inspiring Christmas Gifts section where we have some great ideas.

My what a change in the weather snow already and it’s only now December, so why not take the time on these cold, dark evenings, to sit somewhere cosy and warm browsing through our catalogue planning your garden for the year ahead. Even better, why not go online to see our full range and place your order!! Although there isn’t too much going on this month there may be a few jobs that could be done. To request a copy of our main 2011 catalogue just click here.

General

Should you have a few spare hours available, pruning dormant plants quite severely will prove beneficial for their growth next season. So as to keep your favourite garden tools and mowers in good condition, servicing and storing them properly at this time of year is worthwhile as it will help to make sure they work well and last for years to come. Another important job is to sweep patios and driveways so that any slippery algae and leaves are cleared away. Keep clearing up any leaves so that slugs and snails can’t shelter beneath them.

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. Also treat timber with preservative or wood colouring when perennial and annual climbers have either died away or lost their leaves.

The remains of any old crops should be cleared away, and added to the compost heap, tidying the area and preparing the ground for next year. A layer of compost can be spread over the soil once cleared and forked into the surface.

During the winter months plants should be watered sparingly so as to prevent water-logging and rotting. Plants should be checked weekly and only if the compost has almost dried out should watering be carried out. Also avoid getting any water on the leaves.

Flowers

Sowings can be made of coleus, cyclamen and geranium provided suitable temperatures can be maintained. Taller growing bush roses can be pruned down by about half which will prevent the wind from causing them to become loose through swaying and in turn damaging the roots. The branches of standard roses should also be shortened. Bare-rooted rose bushes can be planted this month. Bulbs that have been potted up and placed in forcing frames should be watered if compost is dry, and only when their shoots are 5cm (2”) high can they be brought out into light, cool conditions.

Vegetables

Broad Bean Aquadulce Claudia can be sown outdoors and the variety The Sutton can be sown under cloches. For large onions, seed can be sown during December and early January transplanting the young plants outdoors in spring. Vacant areas in the vegetable plot can be dug ready for sowing and planting in spring. Chicory roots can be lifted at this time by cutting back tops and potting up which will force them to produce blanched, tender chicons with whitened leafy shoots. Three roots should be contained in a 25cm (10”) pot placing another pot (upturned) on top so that light can’t penetrate.

Fruit

Soft fruit such as currants, gooseberries, raspberries, blackberries and tayberries can be planted at this time as they are dormant. If soil conditions are unsuitable when you receive your plants, plant them in a spare piece of ground or pot until there is an improvement. Currants – extra plants can be raised by hardwood cuttings being taken from existing healthy bushes. The cuttings should be 25-30cm (10-12”) in length, then buried to about half their depth. Blackcurrants – established plants can now be pruned allowing the young wood, which will bear most of the fruit, to start putting on growth in spring. Blackcurrants – all the buds that are intact should remain, but in the case of whitecurrants and redcurrants only the top four should be left, removing all the others. Gooseberries – cuttings may also be taken. Rhubarb – lift clumps, pot up in large boxes for forcing and place either in the greenhouse or shed. The roots should be covered with moist compost, then with the support of a frame place black polythene over the top which will exclude light. Apples – store picked fruit that isn’t going to be used immediately in clear plastic bags. The bags should be sealed but two or three small pinpricks should be made in the sides so as to release any gasses produced by the fruits. The bags should be kept in a cool place and only healthy fruits stored. Check the fruit regularly and remove any rotten ones.

Lawns

Using a rake remove any leaves that have blown onto the lawn, keeping off the grass if wet or frozen. Or to make it easier, why not check out the labour saving Electric Blower and Vacuum to keep your lawn free of any debris! Leaves should also be cleared away from rock gardens and borders. Remove any worm casts when nice and crumbly by using a stiff broom or besom from the lawn on a dry, windy day.

Greenhouses

This is the ideal time to clean the greenhouse, pots and trays in readiness for plant raising.  Also check that greenhouse heaters and propagators are working correctly. In order to keep greenhouses warmer and reduce heating costs insulate with bubble film which is easy to fit. Before starting to line glass below staging level with white polystyrene, wash the glass inside and out as this will maximise light levels. Remember to keep the gutters clear of any leaves or debris.

Pests may overwinter on plants so keep an eye out for them, as small infestations of red spider mite, greenfly and whitefly can soon spread. This could provide problems in the future so it is best to control now by either spraying, removing them from the leaves or, if really necessary, disposing of any plants that are infected.

Ponds & Wild Birds

Cover with netting to prevent any falling leaves from going in. It is also a good idea to remove filters and pumps so that they don’t suffer any damage from freezing water during the winter months.

With the colder weather arriving, plus birds who fly south from countries such as Siberia and northern Scandinavia who visit our shores due to the relatively mild climate during the winter, why not provide a supply of food and enjoy the pleasure they give. Please remember to hang feeders at a height so that they will be beyond the reach of cats.

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