By Gemma Melling, Editor
We’ve now had the first frosts and many of us have been busy getting our gardens ready for winter.
I’ve now cut down all my annual climbers, dug up my dahlias and finally finished planting my spring bulbs!
Time in the garden at this time of the year is bound to be less than in the drier, warmer months, but there will still be lots to do on those days where the winter sun shines and you have time for a little potter outside.
Sadly, we aren’t lucky enough to have lots of mature trees or hedges surrounding our garden, so we are spared the leaf raking job – if you do have lots of leaves falling on your garden, just make sure you keep clearing them from the borders because otherwise they provide an ideal place for slugs and other unwanted beasties to hide over winter.
Here’s a few other ideas for your gardening time in December:
Feed the birds
Keep feeding the birds and leave out a source of water. I’ve noticed the birds in our garden love fat balls at this time of year. You might even want to make your own – kids love to help too. Here’s an easy ‘recipe’ for a bird seed cake you could try.
Enjoy the signs of spring to come
Don’t be alarmed if your spring bulbs are starting to appear already – lots of mine are too. They will slow their growth as the temperatures drop and then begin again in spring – just as they’re meant to!
Settle your plants in for winter
If you have plants overwintering in the greenhouse, keep them dry with only a minimal amount of watering so as to prevent diseases. Your houseplants might enjoy being moved to a sunnier windowsill over winter, so they can absorb as much natural light as possible during the shorter days. If you have lots of potted plants outdoors that can’t go in a greenhouse, consider huddling them all together in the most sheltered spot in the garden to offer them as much protection from any harsh frosts as possible.
Need to work off those extra Christmas calories? Get digging…
If you’re feeling energetic and the ground isn’t too hard, dig over your borders to get a head start preparing the ground for next year. If you have heavy clay soil, like much of our local area does, any frosts will actually help to break down those hard clumps ready for next year. Add some manure and the worms will do the same!
Another tip for clay soils – if you are planning to do any winter digging (for example, if you have a vegetable bed and hope to start using it for growing early next year), consider covering the bed with a polythene sheet now to keep it dry and make digging easier when you are ready to do so.
Leave those hydrangeas alone!
Leave the faded heads on your hydrangeas – as tempting as it might be to cut them off and tidy up the plant, the dead heads provide frost protection to next year’s buds which will be forming on the stems below. Wait until Spring to chop off the old flower heads.
Prune fruit trees
If you have fruit trees, December is a good time to prune them for shape and structure – it will encourage better quality fruiting next year. (This is true of most fruit trees but not those with stoned fruits like plums and cherries – you should wait until summer to prune these types).
About the author:
My name is Gemma. I’m the editor of Newton-le-Willows News and a very keen but amateur gardener. I mainly enjoy growing flowers in my small garden in Lowton, but I also dabble with the odd veggie too – all in containers. You can follow my garden on Instagram @gandtgarden.