Our top 10 gardening tips for December
As the famous song goes, the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful.
If the cold weather hasn’t tipped you off, winter is very close. Specifically, it begins on 21st December.
When it gets frostier, it can be hard to motivate yourself to get out in the garden. The allure of the fireside armchair is very strong.
However, when it isn’t wet and the sun comes out, it can be quite pleasant. Even the sun goes down quickly, there are a lot of gorgeous clear and sunny days. Just make sure to wrap up properly!
Now is the time to follow through with any repairs and maintenance that you’ve been putting off, pruning and preparing your plants for the winter, and, of course, getting ready for the big day at the end of the month!
To give you a helping hand, we’ve compiled our top 10 gardening tips to keep you busy this December.
You can either read this blog from top to bottom or click the tip that interests you the most below and you’ll be taken straight there.
- Choose and prepare your Christmas tree
- Check stored vegetables
- Add some extra colour to your garden
- And bring the colour inside as well
- Get some armchair gardening done
- Protect plants that are vulnerable to frost
- Keep on top of pruning
- Wrap insulation around outside taps
- Look after your lawn
- Give your houseplants some extra attention
1. Choose and prepare your Christmas tree
Are you a natural or artificial Christmas tree person?
Although we love the tradition of getting a real Christmas tree, we also love the ease and timesaving an artificial option provides.
Either decision is a good one in our books. What’s best for you depends on your needs and wants.
If you buy a real tree, it should last three to five weeks with a good supply of water and proper care.
As soon as you get your tree home, saw 3cm off the bottom of the trunk and place it in water. You can put it in a bucket outside if you’re not ready to bring it in just yet, or the stand itself if you’re ready.
You need to do this to make sure sap doesn’t form, dry, and stop the tree from taking in water. Although they don’t have roots, Christmas trees will drink more than half a litre of water a day – so always keep their stands topped up!
If you go down the artificial route, you don’t have to worry as much about preparation and the dreaded sap. You can even get a pre-lit artificial Christmas tree if you want to save time on decorating!
Although, there are still some tricks to make your tree look as good as possible.
We’d recommend leaving your tree to stand undecorated for a night once you’ve put it up. This will make it easier to arrange the branches to make it look fuller – otherwise known as “fluffing”.
Take care to disperse each branch evenly when fluffing. This will guarantee that you have the beautiful, full look we all want.
We suggest starting to pull out and fluff the branches at the bottom and working your way up to make sure you don't miss any that are tucked away.
If you’d like to read more about Christmas trees, we have a blog about whether you should buy an artificial Christmas tree and one about how to keep your real Christmas tree alive and looking good for as long as possible.
2. Check stored vegetables
Regularly check stored strings of onions and garlic for signs of rot or sprouting. If you find any such signs, discard the vegetables straight away.
Check your stored potatoes as well, particularly if blight has been an issue for you in the past.
Rotting tubers will reveal themselves by emitting a foul odour; you should also get rid of them right away.
3. Add some extra colour to your garden
Just because winter is on the way doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy a bit of colour in your garden!
Cyclamen is a good shout – particularly Cylamen coum, which is the hardiest species in the family.
It has beautiful pink and magenta flowers offset by dark green leaves that flourish during the depths of winter.
They should be planted in well-drained soil in a position that receives a lot of shade – preferably under trees or shrubs.
Also, the following bulbs can be planted as late as December and still have a good show the following spring: Tulipa ‘Queen of the Night’, Allium ‘Purple Sensation’, Fritillaria ‘Maxima Lutea’, and April-flowering daffodils.
When selecting which to buy, check that bulbs are firm to the touch and that there are no signs of mould.
Of course, this also applies to any bulbs you may have bought earlier in the season but have forgotten to plant until now, so have a quick trip to the shed to see if you can find any overlooked bags.
4. And bring the colour inside as well
You can also bring winter flowering plants inside for colour.
A good selection includes azaleas, poinsettias, winter cyclamen, and solanum capsicastrum (the winter cherry). These will fill your home with colour over the holiday period.
Although, bear in mind that they’re living decorations, so they will last longer when given a little care and attention.
Also, if you’re lucky enough to have some in your garden, gather holly and ivy to brighten up the inside of your home and create some festive cheer!
5. Get some armchair gardening done
If the weather is just too bad to head outside, then it’s a good idea to plan what you want to grow in your garden next year.
Even on a cold winter’s day, you can dream of the summer to come. Leafing through seed and plant catalogues by the fireside is definitely a pleasant way to spend an afternoon!
Getting orders off early will ensure that you get the plants you want before the nurseries run out of them. There are many specialist plant nurseries around the country and most of them produce catalogues. These can be a mine of information and you’ll often come across some little treasures!
It’s exciting to try some new varieties each year. By ordering early you have the best chance of getting the varieties you want and having them in good time for sowing.
Many people leave it to the last minute to order their seeds and get caught up in the rush of spring orders to seed companies. Don’t be one of them!
6. Protect plants that are vulnerable to frost
It’s rare to get severely poor weather in December, but there can often be sharp frosts. So, you need to protect your vulnerable plants accordingly.
Firstly, if you haven’t done so already, move pots with borderline hardy plants inside.
Specifically, we’d recommend moving them into a cool greenhouse or conservatory. Very little heat is required, otherwise the plants will tend to put on too much growth, which will be very straggly due to the lack of light in December.
If you’re not sure which to bring in, start with abutilons, aeoniums, agapanthus, citrus, echeverias, fuchsias, pelargoniums, and salvias.
For any vegetables you have on the go, we’d recommend investing in a pop-up cloche. Winter crops need protection from the winds and frost. A cloche can make all the difference to their survival and even their ability to produce modest harvests.
Protect hardy lettuces, peas, salad leaves, spinach, Swiss chard, broad beans, and curley parsley using cloches.
7. Keep on top of pruning
Winter is pruning time for ornamental and fruiting woody plants.
To get started with pruning, you’ll need to get your hands on a pair of loppers and/or secateurs. If you’re not sure which you specifically need, check out our blog “What is the difference between loppers and secateurs?”.
Consider shredding the prunings rather than burning them or throwing them away – such shredding makes a terrific mulch, or they can be added to the compost heap.
If your garden is mostly shrubs and lawn, keep a pile of shreddings to mix in with grass clippings in the summer.
These need plenty of air in them if they are to rot down properly and not form a slimy, stinking mess.
Don’t shred any diseased material because the disease will spread.
8. Wrap insulation around outside taps
Water expands as ice forms; this can easily cause pipes to rupture, disrupting your home's water supply.
Taps can be sealed in multiple layers of hessian to insulate them, or there are devices available on the market designed specifically to do this.
If at all feasible, shut off the supply to outdoor faucets and drain the pipe. By doing this, you will eliminate all risk of pipes bursting.
9. Look after your lawn
If the grass is frozen or wet, avoid walking on it and instead lay down some boards. When a frozen lawn thaws, yellow patches will have formed if you walk on it.
Remove any fallen leaves that have been left on the grass by raking them up. If they are not removed, diseases could spread owing to poor air circulation and the lack of light.
10. Give your houseplants some extra attention
Winter brings shorter days, and plants need all the light they can get – especially indoor plants that often only receive light from one side.
Plants tend to reach for the light, so keep them on a sunny windowsill and rotate them every few days to prevent them from growing to one side.
Large foliage plants, like rubber plants, should have their leaves cleaned. The amount of light reaching the leaf surfaces can be significantly reduced when dust accumulates on them, which negatively affects the leaf surfaces.
Whether you're a seasoned gardener or an absolute newbie, these tips and tricks for keeping your garden looking its best will come in handy this December.
We hope that you’ve found them useful. And, most importantly of all, we hope that you and your family have a very merry Christmas.