The Mains of Drum

Tasks for December

December is the month when everyone starts concentrating on Christmas.

This is such a beautiful month for the garden. Frosty fresh mornings with a beautiful sunrise, birds out searching for their breakfast, a wonderful start to the day. Although the weather is so much colder there are still jobs to be done in the garden if you haven't managed to do them already.

Winter

Now that the temperatures are dropping use bubble wrap/hessian sacks etc to wrap around your pots that need protection from the frost. If you are fortunate enough to have a greenhouse then this will be ideal cover for many of your more tender plants. Grouping together pots is a good way of protecting them from the harshest of the winter weather. some plants may benefit from a covering of fleece. more tender plants in the borders can be mulched with some straw at the base to protect the roots from freezing.

General

Some gardeners will leave fallen leaves and stems in their borders to help protect the roots of plants. The birds do enjoy scraping through all these too for small insects, snails and slugs. If you want to prevent this then remove all the fallen material and place in your compost heap.

Birdcare

Feeding the birds at this time of year will not only be good for them but also beneficial to your garden. Hang feeders around the garden encouraging the birds on to different areas where they will also forage for insects that are overwintering in all the nooks and crannies. Remember to keep your bird feeders clean and topped up. Some fresh unfrozen water will always be appreciated by them so keep the birdbaths clean and replenished.

Planting

For some winter interest plant up a pot with some lovely scented winter shrubs, such as Chimonanthus, Daphne odora or Sarcococca (also known as sweet box because of it's fragrance). If you position these by your doorstep or close to the house you'll be able to enjoy their scent every time you pass by.

Winter

December is also a good month to get pruning. Fruit trees such as apples and pears, wisteria, roses and japanese maples (Acers) can all benefit from a winter pruning. Make sure to prune on a nice dry day, as pruning when there's moisture in the air can encourage bacterial or fungal disease to get into the plant via the fresh cut. Winter pruning encourages growth, so when pruning apple and pear trees aim to remove between 10-20% of the overall canopy. Make sure to work your way evenly round the tree, removing any dead, damaged or diseased branches. For Wisteria, cut back the side shoots to just 3-4 buds, remember your Wisteria will need pruned again in the summer after flowering. The older flowered side shoots of climbing roses can be pruned back by about two thirds and shrub roses can be pruned back a little to prevent root rock over the winter. For Acers prune out any dead, diseased or damaged branches, making sure to keep a nice shape to the tree. It can be tempting to prune back the flowerheads of Hydrangeas, however these are best left until the spring as they protect the new growth.

Pruning

As well as pruning roses, it's worth clearing up the fallen leaves of the plant if they were affected by blackspot or rust. This will prevent the infection from spreading next year.

Disease Control

As well as pruning roses, it's worth clearing up the fallen leaves of the plant if they were affected by blackspot or rust. This will prevent the infection from spreading next year.

Bulbs

It's worth keeping a check on any stored bulbs, corms, and tubers such as Dahlias for rot. Remove any which are rotten to prevent it spreading through all of them.

Planting

Now is the time to get planting bare-rooted plants. This means instead of coming planted up in pots of compost, they come as they are with roots exposed. It's best to soak them in some water as soon as you get them. You must plant them out as soon as possible to avoid them drying out, but if you haven't got the spot ready you can always dig a temporary 'trench' in the ground and cover them with soil until the permanent spot is ready.

Grow Your Own

If you have a veg garden or allotment, it's worth covering veg with fleece when it gets especially cold. Lift leeks and parsnips before the ground is frozen solid.Other jobs for the plot include lifting and dividing established clumps of rhubarb to encourage more vigorous growth. It's best to use sections taken from the outside of the plant rather than those of the centre.

Planting

Planting of trees, deciduous shrubs, bulbs and perennials should all have been done by now but depending on where you are and what your weather is like at the moment then it is still possible to be doing some of this before it is too late. If you are in a colder spot where the ground may be freezing think of potting on, bags of compost can be found in garden centres. Pot on your plants into slightly larger pots.

Greenhouse

It is a good time of year to give the greenhouse a really good deep clean. Use a disinfectant to try and get rid of any overwintering insects and any diseases that may be lurking around. Remember and get right into all the corners of the frames and roof and all the shelving too. If you have any plants in there for the winter time keep the watering to a minimum and ventilate your greenhouse when required, depending on the ever changing weather. These plants may be harbouring some wee pests so keep a check and remove if you spot any. Keep an eye on the snow arriving, any on the roof can be brushed off. Any trays, tools, matting etc can be washed thoroughly and will be fresh and ready for next year.

Winter

With freezing temperatures it is always clever to insulate any outdoor water taps and pipes. Hoses can be tidied away to a frost free area to keep them protected from cracking, splitting etc.

Winter

During winter months any leaves on the lawn should be removed to let in the light, preventing patches on the grass. Keep off the lawn whilst there is snow and hard frost to protect your grass. In damp areas use an aerator or garden fork to improve drainage. Take the opportunity to have your lawn mower serviced and sharpened whilst the use of it is at a minimum.

Tidy Up

This is a good time to give your shed a clean out. Any tools can be washed and it is a great idea to rub the wood and metal with linseed oil, this will aid the prevention of them becoming rusty. Ensure that your shed is in good order to stand up to the bad weather and check locks for security at a time of year when you don't check on it as often.

General

If you have a waterbutt this time of year is a good opportunity to empty it and give it a clean out. Over the winter there will be plenty rainfall to give you a lovely fresh start to the spring.

General

If you don't already have one think about build yourself a compost bay and an area for leaf mould. Both these will benefit you and your garden for years to come. They could be turned over at this time of year and if you cover them with some old fleece/carpet/cardboard this will help to keep the heat in to encourage the material to decompose.

Trees

Check that your trees are staked well and are secure before the windy weather increases, although the autumn weather may have been really windy so tightening the ties that have slackened off could be necessary. Keeping the roots of your trees stable is important all year when you plant a new tree but especially in the autumn/winter time. Neither do you want your ties to be too tight on your tree as the girth grows, so be prepared to loosen them slightly if needed. Your climbing plants and roses can be checkd over too. ensure that they are securely tied for protection on windy days.

Wildlife

Having a corner of the garden where you can keep it less tidy will be great for helping our the wildlife. Some small insect boxes, logs piled up, fresh rainwater in a small dish are just a few ideas. Small animals may come and shelter there in the bad weather ahead. If they feed on some of your slugs and snails that will be their thank you to you for helping them out.

Planning

Planning ahead for next year can be done on the worst of days. If its too wet and cold why not sit with a cuppy and a note book writing your ideas of what you would like to do next.... A plan of action can then begin on whether you are crop rotating, planting seeds, reshaping a border, choosing new plants.....the list is endless but it is great to let your mind wander and think of all the possibilities. You can do anything!!

Tidy Up

Patio cleaning is a bit of a chore but there is a great need for this, especially if it gets really slippery. There are many brands of liquids you can use or maybe a power washer would do the trick.

General

if there is a good dry day it is good to keep all your wooden furniture and fencing well maintained. Giving them a coat of oil or preservative now on a nice day will help them look their best for longer.

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