December Gardening Guide

This autumn has been very mild and very dry. There is much talk of an impending drought by next spring so use these winter months to harvest water and be one jump ahead! Pop into Ruxley for lots of good ideas of how to become a water hoarder!

  • Carry on with autumn/winter digging incorporating well-rotted manure or other well-rotted organic compost.
  • Keep lawns and borders clear of falling leaves and turn into valuable leaf-mould in a separate compost division or in black bags spiked with a fork.
  • Grass will continue to grow whilst the temp remains above 5 deg centigrade. Mow as required with the blades set to 40mm. Do not walk on frozen or saturated lawns. Continue to lay turf in mild spells.
  • Plant bare root and container grown roses, shrubs, hedging, soft fruit and raspberries, prune established gooseberries, currants and cut to the ground autumn fruiting raspberry canes.
  • Renovate or maintain the shape of deciduous shrubs or hedges, prune whilst dormant. Take care on birches, acers and vines to complete within the next six weeks. Pruning of tender shrubs and evergreens is best carried out in spring.
  • Don’t be tempted to prune the prunus species in autumn or winter as they are very susceptible to silver leaf and canker – leave these til summer. This group includes the fruiting and ornamental flowering cherries and plums.
  • Prune dormant apples and pears grown in the open, check ties and stakes. Check over trained fruit for disease, attachment to supports and train in any new growth. Formative summer pruning is carried out in late July to promote fruiting spur production and control excessive growth.
  • Spray during winter on a regular basis a winter wash to all fruit trees. Note this replacement of the original tar oil winter wash is less effective and needs regular reapplication.
  • Move tender plants in pots to sheltered positions against south or west facades of buildings.
  • Consider in sheltered well-drained positions leaving in dahlias and cannas under a heavy mulch of bark otherwise lift and store as usual.
  • Mulch crowns of tender perennials and bulbs.
  • Clean and fumigate greenhouses, check plants to be over-wintered for disease and pests.
  • Examine garden fences, sheds and other structures, carry out repairs and apply protective products.
  • Consider adding gutters to sheds, greenhouses for rainwater collection. Useful in a drought and for watering acid loving plants.
  • Protect rigid ponds from freezing over by using floating rubber ball. Remove pumps or run weekly.
  • Take time to order flower and vegetable seed catalogues, plugs and cuttings.