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28 November 2013

December Gardening Tasks

December will probably give us a mixture of weather, including days when we can do some useful jobs in the garden. When it's not so good it gives us a chance to tidy our sheds and greenhouses and to get pots and trays ready for the spring.

There are still plenty of jobs to do - some of which will surely apply to you and your garden:-

Keep an eye on your winter-flowering pansies as pale blotches and fuzzy grey mould on their leaves can be indicative of downy mildew. Remove infected leaves right away as there is no cure.

Borderline-hardy plants such as phygelius, hedychium, agapanthus and melianthus will benefit from a mulch of dry material to protect the crown.

You can still lift and divide herbaceous perennials in mild areas in order to revive poorly flowering clumps and to give you more plants. Carry on tidying up any faded herbaceous perennials, adding them to your compost heap.

Take root cuttings of plants such as phlox, papaver, anchusa, acanthus and verbascum.

Take hardwood cuttings of shrubs such as buddleia, rubus, salix, berberis, ligustrum and forsythia.

Alpines can be sown from seed this month, but put a sheet of glass over the sown area to keep off excessive wet.

Remove any remaining leaves from beds and borders, but especially from alpines as they don't like the damp.

If you are preparing any new beds, dig in plenty of organic matter, such as well-rotted manure, and keep some for use as a mulch elsewhere in your garden.

Winter is the time to plant bare-rooted deciduous hedging and trees, and also roses. Avoid planting roses where they have been before as they are susceptible to replant diseases. You can also move established deciduous shrubs and trees as long as the ground isn't too wet or frozen.

Dogwoods (cornus) provide valuable winter interest as long as they are cut back hard in late winter/early spring every year, as only the young stems are well coloured.

Witch hazels are one of the best winter-flowering shrubs e.g.hHamamelis x intermedia 'Pallida’ with sulphur-yellow fragrant flowers and hamamelis x intermedia 'Orange Peel’ which has lovely orange-scented flowers and good autumn colour. Can you make room for one in your garden?

This is a good time to prune deciduous trees and shrubs as they are dormant and have no leaves, making it easier to see what you are doing. Evergreens and tender plants are best left till spring. Check tree ties and stakes and adjust or replace as necessary.

Cover any large tubs at risk of cracking in the frost with bubblewrap, hessian or fleece, to protect them through the winter. Raise patio containers off the ground so that they aren't sat in the wet.

Check that winter protection for tender plants outdoors is still in place, especially after storms.

Move tender plants and pots into the greenhouse or conservatory before the colder weather arrives.

Orchids such as phalaenopsis, and poinsettias need a minimum temperature of 16-19C (60-66F), but should be kept away from open fires radiators and draughts.

If you are buying a Christmas tree choose a pine (pinus) or fir (abies) tree rather than a Norway spruce (picea abies) as they hold their needles for longer. Try to keep your tree away from sources of heat if possible.

Help any Christmas gift plants such as Christmas cacti, azaleas and indoor cyclamen to last longer by keeping them cool at 13-15C (55-59F). Forced bulbs such as daffodils and hyacinths also require lower temperatures.

Have a happy gardening December and a merry Christmas.
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