What to do in the garden in December

Frost, rainfall and winds are increasingly common, sunshine hours are much reduced and it can be bitter with a risk of snow. You may not want to be working outside at this time of year, but luckily there’s not a lot to do. Keep an eye on winter protection, and if you have a greenhouse, make sure the heater works. It’s time to think about pruning apples and pears too. See our video on how to do it to get the best possible harvest. 

Top 10 jobs this month

  1. Check your winter protection structures are still securely in place. Cold, wet, windy winter weather can damage trees, shrubs and garden structures such as trellis. Improving shelter, staking plants, mulching, wrapping pots and careful matching of plants to places will help to prevent this kind of damage.
  2. Check that greenhouse heaters are working, and ensure your greenhouse is as insulated as possible by ensuring you seal cracks, replace broken panes and ensure vents and doors fit snugly. Also add a layer of bubble polythene to insulate the greenhouse.
  3. Insulate outdoor taps and prevent ponds from freezing. If the pond is stocked with fish and it does freeze over, melt the ice by placing a hot pan on the surface, or install a pond heater or water feature to prevent freezing occurring. Floating a ball on the water in cold weather can also delay freezing. Never smash the ice, as the shock waves can harm fish.
  4. Prune open-grown apples and pears (but not those trained against walls). Apple and pear trees trained as free-standing bushes are best pruned every winter to ensure a good cycle of fruiting wood.
  5. Prune acers, birches and vines before Christmas to avoid bleeding – these plants are particularly prone to bleeding, so pruning at the correct time will help prevent it.
  6. Harvest leeks, parsnips, winter cabbage, sprouts and remaining root crops There are some really robust vegetables that can put up British winters, ensuring that you have a supply of vegetables throughout the winter months.
  7. Deciduous trees and shrubs can still be planted and transplanted.
  8. Take hardwood cuttings. Hardwood cuttings provide an easy and reliable method of propagating a range of deciduous climbers, trees and shrubs, and as bonus, they are taken from mid-autumn until late winter when more time is usually available to the gardener.
  9. Keep mice away from stored produce.
  10. Gradually reduce watering until the compost is almost dry between watering and stop feeding, except where plants are growing vigorously or flowering.