Marie Hudson once said ‘the gardening season officially begins on January 1st and ends on December 31’, so unfortunately there’s no rest for gardeners this festive season!
Finish the autumn tidy-up of leaves from beds and borders. It is especially important to clear leaves and debris from alpines, as they will die off if covered in damp for any length of time.
Continue to cut back faded herbaceous perennials and add them to the compost heap or alternatively leave these until spring so that they can be used as winter homes for insects.
If the weather allows dig over empty borders and prepare your soil for next year’s planting.
Start to winter-prune wisteria, cutting back summer side-shoots to 2 or 3 buds.
Prune climbing roses, removing diseased or damaged growth and tying in any new shoots to their support.
If needed prune Japanese Maples (Acers) and vines, as they will bleed sap if pruning is done any later.
Leaving the faded flower heads on your hydrangeas until spring, will provide frost protection to the swelling buds further down the stems.
December is a good month to winter prune apple and pear trees to control their shape and size, and to increase their productivity.
Vegetables including parsnips, leeks and winter cabbages, can be left in the ground until you need them. It’s difficult to harvest crops from frozen soil, so if temperatures plummet, cover the soil with straw.
If your lawn suffers dieback from treading during the wet, muddy season, then you may wish to lay stepping-stones through it to allow easy access across it without causing damage.
Garden birds will be finding it more and more difficult to find food. Put out fat balls, peanuts and sunflower hearts to help them. Remember to break the ice on birdbaths so that they have access to fresh water.
Cover ponds with netting and remove filters and pumps so that they don’t suffer any damage from freezing water during the winter months.
Top tip: Cut stems of berried winter shrubs, seasonal flowers and evergreen leaves for festive decorations!