What to do in your garden in December

Coleus 'Rainbow Mix' from Suttons

Keep your garden in good condition by working through our checklist of jobs to do in December. You can still sow flower seeds this month and, to keep things ticking along in the propagator, have a look at the hardy vegetable seeds to sow in December as well.

As mid-winter approaches, it’s a great time to browse through our catalogue and plan your garden beds, borders and vegetable patch for the year ahead. Christmas is getting closer too – our selection of gift ideas is just the thing for hard-to-buy for garden lovers!

Flowering plants in December

  • Sow coleus, cyclamen and geranium seeds now in a heated propagator.
  • Prune down tall growing rose bushes by about half to reduce the risk of wind damage to the roots and stems.
  • Shorten the branches of standard roses with sharp clean secateurs.
  • Plant bare-rooted rose bushes this month.
  • Bring any forced indoor flower bulbs out of their warm dark place and into light, cool conditions when their shoots are 5cm (2″) high.

Vegetables in December

  • Sow broad bean ‘Aquadulce Claudia’ outdoors and sow broad bean ‘The Sutton’ under cloches.
  • Sow large onions during December and early January, transplanting the young plants outdoors in spring.
  • Dig over frost free vacant areas in the vegetable plot ready for sowing and planting in early spring.
  • Lift Chicory roots at this time after cutting back the growing tops. Pot up the lifted plants to force them to produce blanched, tender chicons with whitened leafy shoots. Make sure that light doesn’t reach the leaves by placing an upturned pot over the plants.

Fruit in December

  • Plant soft fruits such as currants, gooseberries, raspberries, blackberries and tayberries this month in their dormant state. Find out how in our guide to growing currants and soft fruit.
  • Plant your soft fruit up in pots if the soil conditions are unsuitable when you receive your plants. Improve your soil by mixing in organic matter or compost.
  • Make extra currant plants by taking hardwood cuttings from existing healthy bushes. The cuttings should be 25-30cm (10-12″) in length, then buried in compost to about half their depth.
  • Prune established blackcurrant plants now, removing only older or diseased stems. Leave the younger shoots, which will bear most of next year’s fruit.
  • Take cuttings from your favourite gooseberry varieties this month to root over winter.
  • Lift rhubarb clumps and pot up in large boxes for forcing in a greenhouse or shed. The roots should be covered with moist compost, then with the support of a frame, place black polythene over the top to exclude light.
  • Use apple trays for storing picked apples. Keep your stored apples in a cool place, checking regularly for bruising or mould.

Pots, baskets, and containers in December

  • Make sure your winter containers are in a position of full sun in the garden.
  • Keep watering your winter flowering displays of pansies and violas and any evergreen shrubs.
Rake raking up dead leaves

Image: Shutterstock

December lawn care

  • Use a garden lawn rake to remove any leaves that have blown onto the lawn, and remember to keep off the grass if it’s wet or frozen to avoid damaging the grass. Remove leaves from rock gardens and borders adjacent to the lawn too.
  • Make tidying the lawn even easier with the labour saving petrol powered blower and vacuum!
  • Choose a dry day to remove any worm casts from the lawn when they’re nice and crumbly. Use a stiff brush or besom broom.

General December garden jobs

  • Prune dormant perennial plants back hard to improve their growth next season.
  • Service and correctly store your favourite garden tools and mowers to make sure they last for many years to come.
  • Sweep patios and driveways so that any slippery algae and leaves are cleared away.
  • Clear up leaves so that slugs and snails can’t shelter beneath them.
  • Repair fences, trellises, and pergolas, replacing any loose posts or any that might be rotting at the base before they collapse and cause damage.
  • Treat timber with preservative or wood colouring when perennial and annual climbers have either died away or lost their leaves.
  • Clear the remains of any old crops away, adding these to your compost heap or to your garden composter.
  • Spread a layer of compost over cleared soil using one of your best garden forks to work the compost in.
  • Clean greenhouse pots and seed trays ready for next year.
  • Keep your greenhouse warm using a heavy duty greenhouse fan heater. You can also use bubble film as insulation. Wash the glass first to maximise light levels.
  • Remember to keep the greenhouse and shed gutters clear of any leaves or debris.
  • Keep an eye out for pests overwintering on plants, as small infestations of red spider mite, greenfly and whitefly rapidly spread. Use a mix of pest control methods now to reduce the pest population.
  • Provide a supply of bird food to help migrating birds in the garden this month. Remember to hang bird feeders beyond the reach of cats.
Pond cover

Image: Shutterstock

December pond care

  • Cover your pond with netting to catch any falling leaves or debris.
  • Remove filters and pond pumps so that they don’t suffer any damage from freezing water during the winter months.
Lead image: Coleus ‘Rainbox Mix’ from Suttons
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