Head of Horticulture Thomas Broom-Hughes offers 10 gardening tips for December...
Many of us plan our Spring/Summer gardens during the Winter months rather than actually gardening, but that doesn't mean there's nothing to do. There is nothing more enjoyable than spending time outside on a crisp winters day. A few minutes spent in the garden in December can lighten the work load for next year and give you a chance to escape from the festive rush.
Here are my top ten gardening jobs for December:
Be prepared for sudden swings in temperature and protect tender plants with a horticultural fleece, newspaper or blankets.
Leave the faded flower heads on your hydrangeas until the spring, as they will provide frost protection to the swelling buds further down the stems.
Dig over bare soil and pile manure on top - let the worms and frosts break up the clods of soil.
If you haven't already done so, clean out the greenhouse thoroughly. Wash the glass, the floor and the staging with a mild disinfectant to kill any overwintering pests and diseases.
Protect your poinsettias from cold draughts and allow them to dry out slightly between watering to make them last for the whole Christmas period and well into January.
If the weather is mild, continue to cut the grass if it's growing, but raise the height of the mower blades. Spike the lawn with a fork to improve drainage and aeration. Continue to clear leaves to let in light and prevent dead patches appearing.
There is still time to plant tulips - avoid planting on a frosty day and use chicken wire to protect the bulbs from hungry squirrels.
If you have planted up paperwhites, amaryllis and other bulbs for indoor flowering, bring them into a warm and well-lit room to encourage blooms during the festive period.
Take the time to enjoy winter scents in the garden. Daphne odora marginata and Sarcococca (Christmas Box) all smell wonderful. It is worth putting a few sprigs into a vase to scent a room.
Cut evergreen foliage and branches to fashion into festive garlands and wreaths. Conifers, ivy, Cornus stems and holly make beautiful traditional displays. Eucalyptus and ferns can make strikingly simple displays in a more contemporary setting.
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