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Wednesday 2 December 2020

This Month in Your Garden - December

‘Christmas is a time of little time. How we get there is a mystery.’ Nicholas Gordon

Shopping, cooking, wrapping. Will there be time for another gerund: digging in December? We don’t generally think of this month as one to do much in the garden. And yet if you’re inclined, or you feel the need for the exercise and the ground is not too hard, it’s not a bad time to improve the soil. Digging in a peat substitute or lime-free compost to alkaline soil, and hydrated lime to acid soil will set you up for spring planting. 

Clay soil in winter is more workable and you can dig in organic matter such as spent mushroom compost, rotted farm manure or bark and let the frost do its work through the winter. You should achieve good, friable soil when you come to plant. Why wait until spring? Container-grown and bare-rooted shrubs, trees and hedging plants can be planted now if the weather is relatively mild. Daphne, Viburnum, winter honeysuckle, hamamelis and Cotoneaster will bring colour to the garden. 

Now you’re out you can carry on pruning the roses you have left flowering and lift and divide herbaceous perennials. Take root cuttings of Japanese anemones, Oriental poppies, hollyhocks, Verbascum and Acanthus to propagate more plants. If you sowed sweet peas last month, pinch out the tips. Sowing alpines now will wake them up and clear leaves off alpine beds, they don’t like being covered.   

  • Don’t know what type of soil you have? Get a soil pH testing kit
  • Prune Acers, vines and birch
  • Put bark chip around Helleborus niger or cover with a cloche
  • Water seedlings, cuttings and bulbs under glass
  • Check tree stakes and replace if necessary, slacken off ties if too tight
  • Check for damage to fences, trellis and plant supports
  • Clean up garden tools and greenhouse
  • Put your feet up and peruse the seed and plant catalogues


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