December in the garden

As we approach the shortest day of the year in December you will need work hard to keep warm outside, such as digging and tree pruning. Check your winter protection and if you have a greenhouse make sure the heater is working. 

General maintenance

  • Rake up fallen leaves that could be sheltering slugs and scoop fallen leaves out of ponds
  • Now’s the time to get some manure to improve your soil - either dig it in during the winter months or pile it onto the soil for the worms to do all the hard work and drag it under for you
  • Take this chance to de-clutter your shed, sharpen blades of hoes, secateurs and other tools, and repair and treat fencing and timber structures with preservative while climbing plants are dormant
  • Wrap insulation material around outdoor taps and pipes; remove pumps and filters from ponds and bubble fountains to avoid damage in freezing weather
  • Protect large ceramic or delicate glazed pots from frost damage by wrapping them in bubble wrap or moving them into a shed or somewhere undercover during winter

Flowers and shrubs

  • Prune wisteria sideshoots to 10-15cm from their base, and tie in leading shoots to create a framework. Cut back overgrown honeysuckle. Check stakes and ties are secure
  • Cut down dead perennials and clear away annual climbers, such as sweet peas and morning glory. Trim autumn-flowering heathers and deadhead pansies
  • Prune overgrown laurel, yew and camellias back hard to rejuvenate them
  • Prepare soil well before planting new roses and prune the tops of standard roses to reduce wind rock. Firm soil around roses loosened by wind rock during storms and bad weather
  • Finish planting tulip bulbs for spring colour and lily of the valley
  • Move tubs of shrubs or winter bedding to a sheltered spot if conditions turn very cold and wrap straw around the base of tender shrubs and climbers to protect them
  • Spread compost on to flower beds for worms to work in over winter or gently fork it in, taking care not to injure emerging bulbs
  • Snow may look beautiful but remember to knock it off the branches of shrubs, trees and other plants bending under its weight to prevent branches breaking

Lawn and trees

  • Cut your grass on a dry day with the blades set high and remember not to walk on lawns in frosty weather or when it’s very wet
  • Plant bareroot trees and deciduous hedges, such as beech and privet, with plenty of compost